Heinrich Steinmeyer , a member of Hitler’s Waffen SS was only 19 when he was captured in Normandy shortly after D-Day, in August 1944. He was classed with a C designation which meant he was considered a hard-line Nazi, completely committed to the cause and dangerous. He was sent to the Prisoner of War camp at Cultybraggan by Comrie and was held there from September 1944 to June 1945. He was then dispatched to Watten in Caithness, another maximum security Nazi Camp and at the end of the war he spent time at a camp in Ladybank , Fife.
But Steinmyer said he was only shown kindness by the villagers of Comrie which he had not expected and the experience had such an impact on him that he returned to Comrie after the war and made lasting friendships. He vowed that when he died he would leave everything he owned for the benefit of the elderly in the community of Comrie.
His Will read “I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Scotland for the kindness and generosity that I have experienced in Scotland during my imprisonment during the war and thereafter.”
When he died at the age of 90 in 2014 his ashes were scattered in the hills above the camp where he had been held. Two and a half years later his bequest of £384,000 was gifted to the village’s local community trust and has now been transferred to a special Heinrich Steinmeyer Fund set up by Comrie Development Trust as a separate account.
Andrew Reid from the Comrie Development Trust said “This story is about Heinrich Steinmyer’s gratitude for how he was treated and welcomed in this village and other parts of Scotland.”
“ Heinrich’s personal history is an amazing story of friendship and appreciation and people in Comrie will both honour and benefit from his legacy.”
Mr Steinmyer was born in 1924 and grew up in Silesia (which became part of East German) with only basic education. He came from a “very poor” family and worked as an apprentice butcher on a pitiful wage. He joined the SS aged 17 and was captured in a fight for a bridge in Caen in France.
He stayed in Scotland after he was released from detention in 1948 and settled in Stranraer where he found work on farms in the area. He said he would have remained living in Scotland after the war had it not been for his elderly widowed mother in his native Silesia. He returned to his hometown in 1970 as she was ill and did not qualify for a pension. He found work at the docks in Bremen and settled in Delmenhorst in a house which he built. He once said “It was in Scotland that I earned the money to build my house so it is only right that it goes back to Scotland when I die.”
He credited the Scots for saving his life on three occasions- from the French when he was captured, from the Polish as he was being transported and then in captivity with kindness.