Rolf Velsen was born June, 1925 on a farm outside of the village of Vilatch, province of Vilatch, in the state of Carinthia, of Austria. He was what the people of that time and place would have called a peasant. In our vernacular of that day we would have called him a “poor, dumb farm boy.” Rolf’s education extended to the sixth grade, and his world was encompassed by the countryside about his home to a radius of ten miles. All beyond that was a foreign land. He was Lutheran and attended church regularly. Rolf’s acquaintances consisted in the main of his extended family, the nearest neighbors, and a few school chums. He worked the land beside his father and mother and brothers and sisters with the simplest of implements. He had never spent a night away from home. Home was all he knew. He was not sophisticated.
On August 1943 he was conscripted into the German Army. He said goodbye to his parents and siblings, and boarded a truck with others of similar luck, which carried him to a train that in turn took him to Salzburg, a distance of less than one-hundred miles from home, near the German-Austrian border. The handful of hours he had spent away from home already seemed to him to be an eternity, and homesick, he jumped from the train as it began to pick up speed. Several hours later he was captured by the police, turned over to military authorities and after a brief interrogation had revealed the facts, Rolf was placed in a cell. The next day he was given a Court Martial for desertion and found guilty. The following day Rolf Velsen was ushered into a courtyard with a thief, and a saboteur, placed against a wall and shot.
This story was related to me by an old man under the influence of a Scotch and heard by myself through the same haze. The story is a retelling of a tale relayed by at least several others and in the telling details may have been lost and others corrupted, but not to such a extent as to render it useless.