This guest post is courtesy of Jennifer, author of In Jennifer’s Head. If you’ve got any information about her grandfather’s ashtray, please head on over to her site and let her know. I’m sure she would be very appreciative of any information you could provide.
My grandfather was a WWII vet. He didn’t really talk much about the war itself, but he did tell several stories of his time guarding a POW camp in Paris. As was his way, he made it a point to get to know the German prisoners. He viewed them as young men no different from himself. The only difference being that they had been drafted to the other side in the war. As luck would have it, one of those men just happened to have been a bootlegger that traveled through the tiny Kansas town that my Granddad called home. He’d gotten a letter telling him that his German mother was very ill. It was a ruse to get him back to Germany so they could draft him. Granddad never expected to find a connection to Grenola, KS all the way in Paris, but that’s just how things worked out.
He was always kind to them, and as a result, the German prisoners loved him. And they made it a point to show their gratitude. During the dead of winter, they dug his tent into the ground and lined it with wool blankets while he was away. Granddad used to say he had the only warm tent in all of Paris that winter. They made him a clock which he sent home with someone that claimed to be a friend. The clock was never seen again. Thankfully, he let the prisoners handle the delivery of another gift, which my mother has in her living room today.
There is only one of these in the world as far as I know. It is made from some sort of large shell casing.
With another shell in the center topped with a medallion that was awarded to German women for bearing Aryan children. Seems fitting that the symbols of evil would be turned into a gift for a soldier of the opposing side. There’s some kind of swords into plowshares analogy here.
Being prisoners of war in a camp, they had limited supplies and tools. Which makes the craftsmanship that much more impressive. Truly a labor of love.
Unfortunately, Granddad is no longer around to tell his stories of finding new friends in the unlikeliest of places. But we still have his ashtray as a reminder of his kindness.
I imagine there are some real history buffs in the readership of the Weapon Blog that would enjoy seeing this and maybe even tell me some things that I don’t know about it. Maybe there are more of them out there. Even if there are, this one is still one of a kind.