Part 7: Renger Rakhorst (69) from Amersfoort

Photo and text Jeroen Hendriks

“The Second World War has always dominated my life. I was born on 4 May 1951. On my birthday party my dad’s family were forever crying at 20.00 hours during the two minutes’ silence of the remembrance ceremony. Two of my father’s brothers were shot and killed in the war.

That always ruined my party. As a child I did not understand their grief. It was explained to me, but shooting is what you did when playing cowboys and Indians, afterwards you simply got up. I stopped celebrating my birthday on 4 May between the ages of 12 and 23, 24.”

Renger came into contact with the military cemetery through Remco Reiding. “At the time my daughter lived next to him and that is how I started reading his  book. It was a page-turner for me. In March 2017 I adopted the grave of an unknown soldier.”

About this particular soldier little was then known, but further research by Reiding has shown that it is most probably Andrey Antonovich Sakharov. He was born in a village in the Russian province of Penza on 1 October 1909. At the time Sakharov, a carpenter, live in Baku (Azerbaijan) and was married to Klavdia.

On 29 July 1941 Sakharov was inducted into the 571st Infantry Regiment. On 12 November 1941 the Germans took him captive near Rostov at the Don. He was transferred to the infamous prisoner of war camp Stalag XI A in Altengrabow near Magdeburg. That camp was liberated on 3/4 May 1945.

Sakharov had by then been transferred to an emergency hospital in the vicinity: in the town of Klötse. Here he died of illness and exhaustion on ‘ca. 4 May 1945’ as his document states.

When we meet Rakhorst at the military cemetery for the photo he has just being given that new information. “Great! Again that date 4 May… Pity that Remco has not yet been able to trace relatives, but with these data I am going to do a little digging myself. I am even more proud now that I have adopted his grave. It would be terrific if we could locate his next of kin, as he fought for our freedom.”