A FORMER German prisoner of war spent the last seven years of his life in the loving care of his family at the Enniskeane eco-village, The Hollies.
Thomas Riedmuller told The Southern Star that his father Ernst (95) – who died on Tuesday, March 23rd – was born in Engen in 1925.
‘He grew up in Nazi Germany,’ he said, ‘and was conscripted as a soldier, in 1943, at the age of 17. He served in Normandy, and it was there, in August 1944, that he was injured and captured.
‘Ernst was brought to England, where he remained as a prisoner of war and a farm labourer until 1947. He told people about it quite readily,’ said Thomas. ‘He used to say it was where he learned his English. ‘In 1947, he came back to a German in ruins and resumed life as a shoemaker, like his father and his grandfather before him.
‘When his wife died, he committed himself to an old folks’ home near where he was living. Being his only surviving son, and living in Ireland, I invited him to come and live with us at The Hollies.
‘In 2014, at the age of 88, he finally decided to make the move. He had been in the nursing home for three years and was tired of it. He said he was feeling adventurous again.
‘We created a space for him in our home and he had been living with us for the last seven years.
‘He was delighted to be part of The Hollies, which is an educational place for sustainable living.’
The community of six households started in 1998 and, today, it runs a successful market garden. It also offers a programme of courses such as natural building, organic gardening, food foraging, making herbal medicine, family communication and conflict resolution.
Thomas said he moved to Ireland with his wife, Ulrike, in 1998 and built a cob house for them and their four sons, using all local and low impact materials.
Ernst’s integration in the local community, particularly within his own age group, happened through the Dunmanway Day Care centre.
He used to go every Thursday. He’d spend the day there and bring his violin to entertain people.
‘When he found that people were not familiar with his repertoire, he started playing Irish tunes like The Star of the County Down and The Last Rose of Summer.
‘In his later years, he was not ill. He simply grew weaker, but throughout it all it was a delight to have him in our home. He was a very gentle, kind, and generous soul.’
Ernst Riedmuller was laid to rest at the Woodbrook Natural Burial Ground in Co Wexford.