Real Name: Unrevealed
Case: Lost Friends
Date: December 24, 1944
Details: In 1944, when Fritz Vincken was just twelve-years-old, he and his mother, Elisabeth, were moved by his father, Hubert, to a small cabin in the Ardennes. Hubert, a baker for the German army, had moved them there to be protected from the fighting during the Battle of the Bulge. On Christmas Eve in 1944, Hubert had still not returned, but Elisabeth tried to make the most of their situation. She made a Christmas meal of a few potatoes and a small rooster.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door; three American soldiers were outside. One of them explained that their friend had been shot and asked if they could come inside. Elisabeth agreed and she had them place the injured soldier on a bed. She knew that harboring the enemy was punishable by death, but she was willing to take that risk to help them. The injured soldier had been shot in the leg and had lost a great amount of blood. Elisabeth and Fritz did everything they could to help.
Soon, one of the soldiers and Elisabeth realized that they both spoke French; he explained to her that they had lost track of their unit and had been walking through the Ardennes for several days. She tried to make the soldiers feel as comfortable as possible. Shortly after that, there was another knock at the door. This time, there were four German soldiers. One of the soldiers said that he had lost their unit and needed a place to stay. Elisabeth agreed to let them in on one condition: they had to accept her guests (the American soldiers) and leave their guns outside. She then took the guns from the Americans as well.
That night, all seven soldiers, along with the Vinckens, sat and had Christmas dinner together. One of the German soldiers looked at the injured American soldier and gave him some first aid. Elisabeth said a prayer, asking for the war to end and for them all to be protected. By the end of the prayer, all of the soldiers had tears in their eyes.
Later that night, the soldiers went outside to look at the stars; they each gave thanks in their own way. All of the soldiers slept together that night. The next morning, the German soldiers helped create a makeshift stretcher for the injured American. They also gave the American soldiers directions back to their unit. That same day, Fritz and Elisabeth left with the Germans and were soon reunited with Hubert.
Five months later, the war ended. In the early 1960s, Fritz immigrated to the United States. Today, he is an American citizen living in Hawaii. Like his father before him, Fritz owns and operates a bakery. In 1966, his mother Elisabeth passed away. Fritz is now searching for the soldiers from that night because of the miraculous and emotional time that they spent.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the March 24, 1995 episode. The story was also featured in a Lifetime movie called Silent Night.
Results: Solved. Eldridge Ward, viewer who worked at a retirement home recognized Fritz's story as a one told by a seventy-five-year-old resident named Ralph Henry Blank. In 1944, Ralph had been a sergeant serving with the U.S. Army in Belgium. Ralph and Fritz soon spoke on the phone, where Ralph vividly recalled the night in the Ardennes that he had spent with Fritz, Elisabeth, and the other soldiers. He even still had the map and compass that one of the German soldiers gave him. On January 19, 1996, Fritz and Ralph were reunited at Ralph's retirement home in Maryland. The reunion occurred just one day after Ralph and his wife's fiftieth wedding anniversary. Ralph's daughter-in-law cooked them the same meal that Elisabeth Vincken made back in 1944: chicken soup.
Fritz was also reunited with another one of the American soldiers soon afterwards. It is not known if any of the German soldiers were located; however, it was noted that the German Army had a high causality rate in the final months of the war, leading Fritz to believe that they may have died in battle. Fritz Vincken eventually passed away on December 8, 2001 with Ralph Blank passing away on May 21, 1999.
- President cites a story of peace amid the terrors of battle
- Man listens as Reagan tells story about him
- TV show reunites war friends
- Dreams of reunion with wartime hero fulfilled
- Man reunited with soldier he'd sheltered during WWII (Page 1) (Page 2)
- Interview of Fritz Vincken
- Fritz Vincken, bakery owner, dead at 69
- Lifelong search for Christmas guests ends on film
- The Incredible True Christmas Story From WWII's Dark Days
- Christmas at war: A cabin in the Hurtgen Forest
- Fritz Vincken at Find a Grave
- Ralph Blank at Find a Grave