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Michael C. Battilana Sits Down with Mike Dulin

Recorded July 19, 2009 in Boston, MA, USA (Video)



[md] Today we're once again talking with Mike Battilana. Mike has an interesting story about his family in World War II.

Mike, why don't you start out and tell me how you discovered this whole thing, that led you on this big project?

[mcb] Well Mike, first of all, thank you, for having me here again. As you know you also played a role in this with your recordings, because you are an inspiration for preserving the oral history of things.

So... my story starts as a child, because my grandparents [Rudolf and Anna Moosleitner] used to tell me these stories about this fallen pilot who was killed in this town, and about the bombing that followed immediately after that.

[md] What was the location of the town?

[mcb] This was in Freilassing, Germany. Which is right across the river (the border) with Austria, so you can go to Salzburg on foot. It is where the Alps end. It is just north of the Alps.

[md] And this is a town that had been pretty much untouched by the war in a sense...

[mcb] Yes, it was a railway junction, it happened to be near Hitler's Alps residence, and other than that however, and some episodes with fighter planes hitting some targets in the area, they had a lot of alarms, but no real bombing, you know... They saw things in the Salzburg area and elsewhere, but not really in that town. And... there were plans, as I later found out, to bomb the town also before, for example in December 1944, however, because of bad weather, the bombers hit a secondary target.

So, things were calm, as much as they can be. You know, the men on the front... Even older men, like my grandfather, he was already 42-43 when he was called, and that was quite late. And my grandmother was left there with the children...

[md] Didn't your grandfather have an occupation, he had a business there and everything, and he had to leave?

[mcb] Yes, he had just finished his house. He had a nice house built in 1939. The economy was doing better, you know, in the 1930s... And he had a sawmill, basically. He was selecting, preparing, cutting the wood for ski factories, some of his clients were ski factories. And he did this until the end, after the war, for as long as skis were made of wood. But he never really recovered from the war. He had health issues and, you know, losing everything...

[md] So, how old was he, and what year did he go into the war?

[mcb] He was born in 1900, so it's easy to do the math. And he went to the war in 1942.

[md] So he was really old to be in the war. But he wasn't really an infantryman or anything like that...

[mcb] No, that's right, he was in a medical reserve unit. He was like an EMT-Basic, I would say. So he travelled a lot in France, in Italy, and he was in Italy at the time of the bombing. He then was a prisoner of war first with the Americans and then with the British. Then he was released, he came home, and there was no house any more, just... [There was] family, of course, but my mother didn't recognize him, she was just a few years old, and he was always away... And my aunt did what she always wanted to do...

[showing a photograph] My aunt is here in the picture: this is my grandmother, my mother, my grandfather, my uncle and my aunt.

And she comes to him and brings him his [neck]ties, you know... So he comes back, finds nothing [left], and she says "Dad, here are your ties." Because she had preserved them from the bombings. Whenever there was the need to go in a shelter, she would [carry] them in the suitcase. And actually this was also the case in the bombing that ultimately destroyed the house.

So, that's his involvement in the war. He saw a lot of wounded people, but... He also saw not so nice things, like the SS going inside the medical camp, shooting with artillery and then leaving again.

So, we grew up... I spent summers there. My parents were both working, so I enjoyed the time and the love of my grandmother. Every holiday also we went there. And there were these stories which you simplified in your child's mind, but which are still big because when you go to the cellar of the house you still see things from the time, as if time had stopped, in a way. And we had these photos hanging on the walls, of the burned-down house, which are a reminder of how things can change in life. And my grandfather enjoyed telling these stories. My grandmother as well. I was interested. I did even do a few tape recordings at the time.

Only they had different opinions about what had happened. Because you know, this pilot was killed in town, and the following week the town was very badly bombed twice on the same day, for the first time in the war. So there seemed to be a relationship. It was perceived that way. It went down in some history books that way, true or not. Their opinions however were different: my grandfather was convinced that this was not related, and it was [because the town was] a military objective...

[md] Your grandfather was very bitter towards the Americans, wasn't he somehow?

[mcb] Yes, even if I have to say... he always said, when he was a prisoner, the Americans treated him better [than the British]. Better food, more friendly. There was no lack of respect, it was just for the old bombings, and he thought the Americans did this, so...

[md] The Americans destroyed his house?

[mcb] Yes.

[md] And what was the story on his business, was that destroyed also?

[mcb] The business consisted of... The precious thing was the warehouse of the wood. There was some left and some burned, of that. But some was still left, of the wood. But the barracks where they were cutting the wood, they were also lost.

[md] So, you growing up had somewhat of an interest in this and you got a little bit of a picture of what had happened, then what sparked your interest to do this whole story?

[mcb] Well, I was searching every now and then, but I could find no information. But then you know, the internet came, that was one factor. And the secrecy terms started expiring. In the US it's 50 years, in the UK it's 60 years. And these were expiring until a few years ago. And some things were declassified after I asked for them. And so, also, as I said, my grandfather's opinion was that the two events were not related. My grandmother, like much of the population, felt guilt for the first episode, and felt that the following bombings were retaliation.

[md] Let's tell the story... What happened that day that the pilot was shot down?

[mcb] OK, [it's] April 16, 1945. [His name was] Chester Coggeshall...

[md] What was his rank?

[mcb] He was a captain by the time already. He was flying a P-51, a fighter plane.

[md] What was their mission, do you know?

[mcb] Yes, the target area was the Salzburg area, so they flew down from the UK, [to] Munich, Salzburg area... They watched a few things along the highway. On a lake they saw some planes. They went to Salzburg, and on the way back they were free to shoot any targets of opportunity, if there were any.

[md] But they were essentially doing bomber support?

[mcb] Not on that day, no. [It was reported to be a "Free Lance Support" mission, opposed to a "Bomber Escort".] They also did that, but not on that day. For daylight bombings, not night bombings, they used to do bomber support, yes, also.

So, on the way back they noticed, near Salzburg, which as we mentioned is near Freilassing, which is also... In a plane you just fly around and it's less than a minute to see Berchtesgaden [area of Hitler's mountain facilities]...

The local airport was Ainring, which was used both by people visiting Hitler when he was there, and they noticed some planes there. They didn't have a mission to find these planes, but there were some Focke-Wulf 190s, which many people were surprised also to find in my records. Because they were in the [list of] items that were destroyed by Chester and the others. So, they [the German planes] were hit on the ground, and there was a response from the ground, either at Ainring airport, or maybe from Freilassing. I heard that maybe there was some flak positioned at the train station area.

In any case, Chester was hit and so he crash-landed. And he survived the crash landing. He was helped out of the plane, also by two local French prisoners of war who were working in the fields there. There were also other people...

[md] How far from the village [Freilassing] was this [Sillersdorf]?

[mcb] A few miles, not far at all.

And then, a military car arrived, and they picked him up, so the people who were there, you know, helped him unbuckle, showed him a photograph he had in his pocket... Other people were busy putting the fuel out of the plane, because it was useful... And they would have protected him, they would have put him in one of their houses, because it was clear anyway that the war was ending, to them at least.

Instead this military vehicle came, and brought him to town. He was tied and he was put very visibly on the vehicle, and going through the town, people had been called, so they had to look at him. They were told to spit at him. And the children, as well.

[md] So they were taking them out of school?

[mcb] Yes, they were also taken out of school, yes. That's what my aunt remembers.

[md] Who were these military men?

[mcb] These military men were actually, I think on that day they were on a training, driving school, on that vehicle. But, the mayor of this small town, Mr. [August] Kobus, had an overlapping political party role [Ortsgruppenleiter] which gave him some limited authority over military affairs as well. It was a bit intermixed in a not so clear way, which also was reflected in the way matters were handled. There were large discussions on whether to bring him into the school building where they had the military first aid location... And the mayor himself blocked the entry with his arms wide open, saying "No he is not coming in here", and so on.

But ultimately he lost on that single moment, in his wish to not help him, and he also lost some of his pride maybe, and it was [ordered by Lieutenant Karl Boehm, after consulting with Captain Hartmann] to bring Chester to a... hospital nearby [in Laufen]. But the mayor managed to convince the young military [officer in charge] of the vehicle [Lieutenant Rüdiger von Massow] to instead assign the whole transport to the mayor, and he ordered him to be brought to the woods [behind the cemetery], where the mayor himself shot him twice in the head.

[md] And was there anybody else besides the mayor involved in this?

[mcb] Yes, but in the trials the mayor was the only one to be sentenced to death. For several reasons.

One very difficult thing to interpret in many wars is what is an order and what is free action that could have been avoided, or that is a crime against humanity... I mean he was a prisoner of war, wounded... There were already conventions in place that of course said not to do this. But in 1944 and 1945 there were directives from Berlin, as was also seen at the Nuremberg trials, that more or less directly "invited" to lynch fallen airmen: pilots, bomber crews, and so on. And for example there were orders to police not to stop civilians doing this. So, orders were more or less direct.

There were meetings, party meetings at regular times, and the mayor tried to also say that the previous meetings had concluded that this was the course of action to take in such cases. Indeed, it had happened elsewhere in Germany. This [defense strategy] of course didn't help him much. And also that he received orders on that day from a neighboring higher office [Kreisleiter], that the prisoner be executed. However the other person [Bernhard Stredele] denied this, so the other person was not sentenced to death.

And I would say, all in all the trial seemed to be "fair". There was an appeal, there were extensive interviews with many witnesses, then transcripts at the court again, and all of this can be obtained. I will also place it online, it was declassified when I asked for it. It's more than 700 pages.

Also, the role of the other people who brought him to the woods was judged to be secondary, so the only person to be sentenced to death was the mayor.

[md] The secondary people, were they given prison sentences?

[mcb] I am quite sure that they were in prison at the time of the trial, and I do not recall for how long. I mean, for example, this young military person who was [in charge of] the car... At many steps this strategy could have stopped. When he crash-landed, had the vehicle not arrived quickly. When during the transport it was already decided to bring him to the hospital, [had] this young person not followed the orders of the mayor. But, well, that's how it went...

[md] So now we've had the whole town who said you come out and see this guy, and just stared at him. Then some time later...

[mcb] He also got a burial... the mayor did not want him to be buried, like, in a coffin, but the town and the people who were at the burial center, they insisted that it be done at their expenses. He was buried properly.

And they were fearing retaliation...

[md] Where did they bury him?

[mcb] At the cemetery.

Also there was a small episode where his personal belongings, like the watch, were taken, but this was promptly noticed and the items were given to the police and they were then forwarded to the Red Cross. So, some aspects were "decent". But still...

[md] But still he was dead.

[mcb] And the town was fearing retaliation. They were fearing retaliation already before [killing him], if they did it. And they feared retaliation even more after that. And what seemed to be retaliation...

[md] Probably also a sense of guilt?

[mcb] Oh yes, I mean, my grandmother expressed this sense of guilt. She... you know, when you feel guilty for something, and something then happens, it almost sort of, it's expected and balances a little bit things. So it was not even perceived as unjust. Not that it wasn't a military target. So, other people as well would agree on that. But for that, for example for my grandmother's feelings, the two things were related.

So, that was April 16, as we said, all in one afternoon: crash landing and execution in the woods.

And on April 25, in the afternoon, alarm sirens, which was not unusual at all at the time. And fighter planes escorting the bombers, and these American bombers flying in from France [and Belgium] bombed a military depot north of the train station. And a few hours after that, it was already evening, British planes coming in from Foggia, Italy, bombed the train station/junction area. They had both bombs and incendiaries, and because the area was wider, because it was night... It was larger and less precise, so there were many more victims also, than during the first bombing. Devastation was immense...

[md] And this is the time they hit the village? Because the first bombs didn't hit the village at all?

[mcb] It marginally hit... there were some casualties also in the first bombing. But...

[md] The second bombing...

[mcb] You know, the problem with the first bombing is, of course you try to seek for shelter, you know, if you have a cellar... but the fighter planes not always make this easier, because they are flying and shooting, so you try to not be exposed to that, and you maybe are not getting where you want to protect yourself from the bombings.

Again, in the evening... This was strange because people didn't expect a second bombing, but at the same time some prisoners of war who were working in my family's place... My grandfather's sister and brothers, they also had a sawmill, and they also had some land, and there were a lot of prisoners of war...

As I said, two French people helped Chester get out of the plane, for example. And there were also two people, treated like family and sleeping in beds, at my other family's house, and they had warned my grandmother and the children that the town would specifically be bombed, and in my aunt's recollection the warning was after the first one. And because of that specific, precise warning, for the first time they seeked shelter somewhere else, out of town. So, when the second bombing arrived, whereas for the first bombing they just went to the cellar, for the second bombing they went somewhere else, in a "real" shelter.

So, indeed the second wave arrived, it was much more devastating, it hit their house as well. The house was completely in flames. There was not much that could be done. Also, casualties were higher. So the city really felt "punished".

After some days the Americans came in town. The mayor was arrested...

[md] Was he arrested immediately? The Americans knew who he was?

[mcb] It was brought up quite quickly, and people were arrested shortly after the Americans came.

[md] Do you have any idea who told the Americans about what happened?

[mcb] I don't remember, I think it's in the war crimes papers.

[md] I mean, some of the Germans that were in the village told the Americans?

[mcb] Yes. Not only that. The body was also recovered and it was sent to the United States. Chester's brother went to New York to pick him up, as I was told by Pauline, Chet's sister.

Chester's brother also was a Navy instructor, he was instructing pilots. So he flew down to New York. And... here we see... I have a picture, because I went to the cemetery last year, and here you can see... It's very sad and... when you see all these tombstones, thousands and thousands and thousands...

So, the body was sent to the United States, the people were arrested, and the court proceedings began. Evidence was collected. They went to the woods, took photographs of the area, they interviewed people, they photographed people.

I was surprised, I must say, by the depth of the... I mean, it was not a "summary trial". I thought they have thousands of cases like this. But still, looking at all the papers, and indeed some of the people who were not executed as a result of this... It was because they filed an appeal while they were in prison, because they saw some new opportunities for appealing, and they succeeded. So, I think for this one person the law was respected because he had all opportunities... his guilt was proven, his personal choices were well documented, and so...

And you know, after his execution, about one year after this whole thing happened, his execution was in early 1946, his body was buried at the same Freilassing cemetery, and overnight it disappeared. The villagers removed the body and [dumped it into the river]. So they didn't want him amongst the people. Chester was put in the cemetery for a few days, but the mayor didn't get this privilege.

But still, in the history books it went down... I mean, I have some books, real printed books that for decades were the books that people in town had in their bookshelves, and they were speaking of retaliation.

But you know, at that time of the war, I see from multiple sources how the whole train tracks were filling up from the north going south, from the south going north... the people who bombed from Foggia were told that this was an important target because they had to block the flow coming from the south...

There was this theory of the possible "redoubt area" in the Alps, or elsewhere, like in Norway for example. They were fearing that there could be some resistance by the Germans. They already knew that the Russians were coming into Berlin, and maybe the Americans and the British did not want to go into street fights... So they focused on operations like that, and Freilassing being in the so-called "redoubt area" and by being an important railway junction, had these reasons to be a target, a military target, [other than for] the episode the week before. And as we said, you know, there was a bombing planned already in December 1944.

But... there were many actions that were planned and not executed, so... the fact that something was planned doesn't mean that there was, because of that, no relationship. I mean, [being in command] I can hear of something happening, maybe there is a policy of retaliation, which I am not aware of, but I have to be open minded. So, I was open-minded towards this as well, maybe some people said "OK, let's see what things we have planned for this town, and let's do them all now." It could have been... But I have no evidence of that.

[md] But so up until you got involved in this, not too long ago, a lot of people in the village still felt that this was a retaliation strike?

[mcb] They will probably still feel [this way] in spite of this. But no, it was already, again, written, later and explained later, that it was not retaliation. I am not the first one who says this. But I am... there is no clear indication, I mean, you [would have] had to go to Churchill's tactical office and see the actual procedures that led to this. Lord Tedder and others were probably involved in these decisions, in the UK, and you know...

There was horrible coordination, for example the planes coming in from Italy in the evening, they crossed the planes who had just bombed Hitler's location, and that was not nice, they did not know about each other, and you know, you are crossing each other...

They... certainly the "simple" airmen, I mean, not the ones who knew about orders and flows from the top... they didn't know about each other, they didn't know about what had happened the week before. Chester's friends didn't know until long after that Chester had been dead, because he was "missing in action", not "killed in action" at first.

I found only a very short reference in the whole hundreds of papers of the war crimes tribunals that there was information that somebody had been killed, and presumably it was an American pilot. So, information was trickling out, but between the homicide in the woods and the bombing, so far I did not find any evidence that they knew, or that there were instructions to bomb because of that. I did not find any of that. What I found was clear, converging information supporting the military reasons for bombing that target, which were railway junction and Alps location. So, geographical location and railway junction.

[md] So how soon after the bombing did the Americans arrive to invade the village, essentially?

[mcb] Not much, less than a month. I think a few weeks.

[md] So you get involved in this story... Who were the first... So the first thing you do, did you work on the declassification of the papers?

Well, the first thing I did is I wanted to know whether they were English or American. I mean, our grandfather didn't allow us to watch American TV [movies], but he allowed us to watch English TV...

[both laugh]

So, the people in town,.. normal people like us... I mean, this is my personal story, I don't want to make history or anything... I mean, I am not interviewing or talking to unrelated people. It would become too huge, I am not a historian... I try to be balanced, because when you do software for example you have to be open minded, defensive, critical of yourself, and everything, and you try to be rational, but this has the risk of widening up too much, Where do you draw a line? I mean, you are not... the Nuremberg trials were already, but this is my personal story, our house, the guilt of my family, my aunt feeling guilty, and my grandmother feeling guilty... The people who bombed town also feeling guilty. Reconciliation still being necessary. And I was very surprised by this. Oral history that needs to be preserved, in my opinion. So yes, the story needs to be told, but the little I can do is the personal story. That's the only contribution I can make. And I am trying to preserve it.

The first time, to answer your question, when I found information about the bombing, was when it trickled online. Some historical archives from the US Army Air Forces mentioned Freilassing, and so I asked... At the Pentagon there is a historical research unit, who was very quick in answering. I was very surprised by that. They sent me information, photographs. I could then ask in Alabama also for better quality photographs based on that, they had the films there. But, this was strange, on one hand it was interesting to have found information about the bombings first, because for that I had a date, whereas for the fallen pilot I had no name, no date, no nationality, no exact location. I knew it was a bit outside of town, so I didn't know where it was recorded. But from the photographs it was clear that this [first] bombing could not have hit our house. So I had to start again, and this took more time, because I was totally confused by this. You know, you don't really expect two bombings one after the other from two completely countries and units, but that's what happened. So, I found out about this British strike in the evening, and that was the second thing that I was able to find, and the third and most difficult thing was learning that the pilot was American, it was Captain Chester Coggeshall, and that...

[md] How did you get that information?

[mcb] Well, I looked up all the people missing in action and killed in action over that timeframe, and narrowed down the location of these people, and then once I had his name I also looked up...

[md] You put the pieces of the puzzle together?

[mcb] The was crimes tribunal papers had to be ordered, but some abstracts were already... you know things were coming up on the internet, and there was a Dutch research project putting up abstracts of war crimes tribunals papers, and so based on that it was easy to go to the National Archives and get everything. Of course I will put it online, because it's a lot of information. It's not copyrighted, it's US Government publications, it was [in part] declassified after I asked for it, but I want to spare the people the scanning 700 pages or more for only this set of files. So I did a very high quality PDF version, and the same also for the photographs, and the scans I do, I try to do in very high quality, lossless you know, 4800 dpi and so on...

So, last year we spoke [you and I], and somebody listened to that interview we did last year, and last year here we said how I had met George in the UK, and Peter in Canada...

[md] George and Peter?

[mcb] George and Peter were part of the night bombing mission. They were both rear gunners, which happens to be a quite dangerous job. But they told them, "Look, you are not going to be a pilot as you would like to. Either you go to the coal mines or you become a rear gunner." Rear gunner [on a bomber] was difficult at the time, because it was the first thing the German fighter plane would try to hit, and also it was difficult to bail out. The parachute very often had to be taken from inside the plane, so, I mean, you hear stories of people jumping out without a parachute. At the end of the war they had things built in the seats, but it was not there...

So, George and Peter, and after your interview last year I spoke with Frank, who was flying with Chester. He was not actually flying next to him, but he went back to search for him. And yesterday I met Pauline, Chester's sister, who was 12 at the time, and her nephew found me because after you placed the interview online I linked to it on my web site [http://www.recordatio.com] and placed a link also on a World War II forum, and Pauline's nephew just a few days after that happened to be searching for the information. He is a scale modeler and wanted to do a model of the plane. He was actually looking for another relative, but as he was there on Google he said "Let's also look this name up", and our page came up, and so he listened to this story, and that's how Chester's sister learned about this. Because at the time they only had two telegrams, "missing in action" and "killed in action", about a few weeks, maybe a month or so apart. They did not know more details about this. Maybe the elder brothers did. But she didn't. So, first notice they had was "missing in action".

[md] So up until yesterday essentially she did not know how her brother died?

[mcb] Not to that detail, no. Because she listened to the interview, and I exchanged emails with her nephew.

[md] So she didn't know that he had been shot, until [yesterday]?

[mcb] Yes, she did. We spoke also on the phone.

She was very thankful first of all that the memory was being preserved, that she could learn about this. Yesterday she told me like, she'd been waiting all life to learn what we talked about yesterday. It was very touching, also.

And... one of the first things I wanted to make sure, because you always hesitate... Am I telling too much? I mean, you don't always want to open up old stories. Many people don't talk about this. The people I met were people that wanted to be found, because they were active in this, they were still active historians of the groups, squadrons or whatever activity they were in. And in that case her nephew found me, and she actively expressed the wish to talk about this to learn more and so we were very happy that we met yesterday.

And next week I am meeting with Walter Strauch. And he was actually flying next to Chester. And I don't think he knows... Like Pauline didn't know that the town was bombed the following week, you know... So we'll see next week. And he was very happy to hear about me.

[md] Where is he at?

[mcb] He is in Kimball, Nebraska. Which is near Denver, Colorado. So, since I have some work to do in Denver... I am trying to sort of combine things.

[md] So how are you going to tie this whole thing together, Mike?

[mcb] I would love to tell stories with continuity from different perspectives. Maybe told, but with continuity, from different people. But you know, the story on the ground, how was life at home, were people afraid? How was life on the ground in Germany? How was everyday life for these pilots, and bombers, were they afraid? How was the mission? What do they remember, what did they feel? So these are old stories that can be told also in a less fragmented way than we are collecting it now.

[md] So far, as you've found, I seem to recall, everybody involved does recall this mission, don't they?

[mcb] Yes, it was... Well, it was the last bombing mission for the UK crew and it was also one of the most important they had, because they were really told "national redoubt", "Alps", "You have to destroy this because it's important" and... so they had this memory of importance already before, and it happened to be the last mission, even if on that day they didn't know it. The sky was clear, so they could see it very well burning at night. And for the week before, also, they lost a friend, you know, and it would have been his last mission, I believe. And, yes, for the people here in Europe the war was ending, so, yes, that's why they remember.

[md] How do you think this has changed your life and your perspective on things?

[mcb] It "had to be done", so I had to do it, it was not a "choice", in that way. So this impulse sort of found peace, to learn about this, and I was surprised by the fact that it was the same on the other side as well.

So, why didn't we do this earlier? Of course, we couldn't. My mother couldn't ask the questions to her father (to my grandfather), it was inappropriate at the time. But it's good that we did it. It was really... It's hard to make me cry, but you know... after leaving Frank, at the airport, I was very very sad... Or yesterday, with Pauline, I couldn't speak at times, and she also... Some things are difficult to even... I wasn't there, but the same emotions that my grandmother conveyed, or the level of detail I obtained from different real people, it's real peoples' stories.

[md] What did your mother say about this project?

[mcb] Yes, she was very happy... Well, you know she likes to see me bit away from computers as well [both laugh], but... for her it was touching to, with me, go to this UK bombers and gunners reunion last year.

[md] Because she went with you?

[mcb] She came with me, and it was... Her very first memories are being in the dark, coughing, in a bomb shelter, the lights in the sky which looked like a Christmas tree, and the hissing sounds of falling bombs. So these are her first childhood memories.

[md] Wow...

[mcb] And... already that is emotional, and so this whole story is patterned with things like that. My aunt was older... she also has memories of close encounters [with fighter planes] and bombs, and going with my grandmother back in the burning house. With all the phosphor dripping from the walls and the roof and [my grandmother] trying to throw things out of the window, but she [my aunt] only was interested in saving my grandfather's ties, not her doll or anything. So, yes, it brought peace, it brought peace and I hope that maybe this story can be shared.

I know that many people do not feel comfortable about what happened, on both sides. For the town I think it affected the sense of belonging, of continuity in something you can be proud of, or be part of, in a "spotless" way, in a way. "There is a bad apple everywhere", as Pauline said yesterday, but... And all these people talking and all expressing similar feelings of reconciliation, I think it can only be good.

And also history being preserved. You want to hear the stories, I think, of what war really is, I mean, you can have thousands theoretical debates about whether videogames are good or bad, whether they make people more dangerous or whether they allow people to express themselves and not be dangerous in real life. But you also have to hear the war stories. People dying, people suffering, bombs and planes really crashing and people dying.

Or how power corrupts. That's another [topic]... I mean, this small-town mayor for me is a big example of how... Power can corrupt us in the small things. I am travelling, I am meeting these people, I have "power", I have to be very humble. I mean, you have a role, and you can feel maybe bigger than you are, but if you are aware that "power corrupts" you try to be more careful. But you know, this mayor, he... My grandmother was not a [Nazi] party member, she was alone with children, and she was arrested a few times, by this mayor. She went to the butcher's once, and instead of saying "Heil Hitler" she said "Grüß Gott", which is a local dialect greeting, which is more informal, and she got arrested by him for things like that. This is not the way... Fanatic and abusive of his power and I dare to say not very smart either. I mean, when you hear the descriptions of the scenes when he is trying to shout and block the entrance to the infirmary, this is not... You can see being correct and professional in other contexts in this story, but from this person I don't know... It is believed that it was his day, his opportunity, to do something like that. Because he had different times when he could choose, and he insisted, and he insisted, and he did it, at the end. So...

[md] To prove that he was a "true believer"?

[mcb] Whatever, yes, this [aspect] also showed up. He was a "believer". He showed to be believer in that system, yes. He had this history of showing this. It was his way, I mean, it gave him power, so... It was maybe his, the only thing he could do, or where he could...

[md] OK, thanks a lot Mike!

[mcb] Thank you, Mike, it's my pleasure. You are an inspiration, you know. And let's hope that this is an inspiration for others as well!

Copyright © 2009 Michael C. Battilana