A former German Waffen SS soldier who was captured during the Second World War has left almost £400,000 to a Scottish village for the kindness he was shown as a prisoner of war.
Heinrich Steinmeyer was captured in France as a 19-year-old and brought to Cultybraggan camp near Comrie, Perthshire, where he was held captive.
The widower, who had no children, died two years ago aged 90, leaving £384,000 to the village after being shown “unexpected kindness” by the villagers and making lasting friendships.
“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 of war and hereafter,” he wrote in his will, according to ITV.
His wish will now be recognised and the money has been gifted to the village’s local community trust to be spent on development for the elderly in the area, as per Mr Steinmeyer’s wishes.
The former soldier said the Scots had saved his life on three separate occasions: from the French when he was captured, from the Polish when he was transported and, finally, with their kindness while he was being held captive.
He said he would have stayed in Scotland but instead he returned to his native Silesia, East Germany, to be with his elderly widowed mother, and later settled in Demlmenhorst, near Bremen.
However, his ashes were scattered in the hills near to the Cultybraggan camp.
Mr Steinmeyer became great friends with George Carson from Comrie, who died just two weeks before him.
“It sounds like an unbelievable story but it’s absolutely true. My mother and her friends, all school children at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff, made friends with Heinrich through the fence of the Cultybraggan camp,” Mr Carson’s son, also called George, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I’m not quite sure how they communicated but during these conversations they discovered that Heinrich had never seen a moving picture. So they went up with their push bikes one morning – one of the girls had taken her brother’s school uniform – and they smuggled him out of the camp through the chainlink fence and into the cinema, where he saw his very first film, and he was absolutely blown away by the whole experience.
“I met him a couple of times and he was a wonderful man. This is his thanks for the kindness shown to him at the point of his life where he was at his lowest, and he just wants to say thank you to everybody.”
The money left by Mr Steinmeyer is currently being held in the Heinrich Steinmeyer Legacy Fund while a consultation takes place to confirm where it should be spent.
“Heinrich’s personal history is an amazing story of friendship and appreciation, and people in Comrie will both honour and benefit from his legacy,” Andrew Reid from the Comrie Development Trust said.
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