Saturday, September 11, 2010

Horst von Oppenfeld

Horst von Oppenfeld
Pete's great-uncle Horst passed away recently at the age of 97. He led a strange and wonderful life, and his biography may be of some interest to history buffs.

He was born to a wealthy family in Germany in 1913. As a young man, he studied agriculture in preparation for inheriting one of his family's farms. During WWII, he served with the German army in France, Russia, and North Africa, where he was captured by the British. After his capture, Horst was sent to the United States and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Kansas. In 1946, he returned to Germany to work with the Americans toward rebuilding German agriculture and infrastructure. He met Pete's aunt Judy in Berlin, where she was working for the American military government. Judy brought Horst back to the U.S. as a "male war bride." They settled in upstate New York, where he continued his studies in agriculture at Cornell, eventually earning his PhD in the early 1950s. He spent the next several decades working in agricultural development all over the world, living in and traveling to the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, and many other developing countries.

He wrote a short autobiography a few years ago — it is available here. He was also interviewed for a Washington Post Magazine article about German POWS in the U.S. — it is available as a PDF here.

1 comment:

Sue Hemmen said...

I love to scan your site occasionally as I am interested in headstones; however, I found this article simply fascinating. I must have my 85 year old. WWII vet father read this. I've read stories about a German POW camp near Sheboygan, WI during the war, but this is the first I've heard of the massive effort our government put into rehabilitating these men before they returned to Germany. What wonderful success stories for Horst and the other men in this article. Thanks for sharing.