German works tirelessly 'to give war dead a face'
By Kate Connolly in Lietzen
With the gentlest of touches Erwin Kowalke ran his fingertips along the tops of four tiny cardboard coffins. "My job is to give the dead a face," he said.
For 25 years he has been doing just that, unearthing the bones of soldiers who perished in the woods around Berlin during ferocious battles in the final days of the Second World War and trying to identify them.
In front of him, in the grounds of a German war graves cemetery, lay the remains of five RAF crew members in four shoebox-sized brown coffins.
The airmen's remains were discovered last year in a wood in Gerbisbach near Wittenberg, north-east of Berlin, during one of Mr Kowalke's many missions. The find followed a tip-off by a local resident who had watched on the night of March 24, 1944 as a blazing RAF Halifax plummeted to the ground before smashing into pieces.