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U.S. General Returns WWII Accordion to German Owner's Family

Dec. 5, 2019 | BY German Army Sgt. Maj. Pia Dunkel , DOD News

Pfc. Andrew Kindsvater of the U.S. Army's 60th Infantry Regiment was fighting on the Western Front and participating in the American advance to the Rhine during World War II when he found a small accordion.

Kindsvater participated in the Battle of the Bulge and fought in the Hurtgen Forrest and the Ardennes. He was wounded at the famous Bridge at Remagen, where he earned the Purple Heart Medal, and was sent home with the accordion safely tucked away in his bags.

General points to accordion as two men and a woman inspect it.
Lost and Found
Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott A. Kindsvater, deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee, points out a feature as Christel Nierhoff, sister of the original owner of an accordion lost during World War II; Ingo Pfennings, the mayor of Schleiden, Germany; and Nierhoff’s nephew, Joachim Kupp, inspect an accordion lost during World War II at a ceremony in Schleiden, Germany, Nov. 28, 2019. Kindsvater inherited the accordion from his grandfather, who found the instrument with a fallen German soldier. He returned the case to Nierhoff, the younger sister of the accordion’s original owner, after it had been in his family's possession for 74 years.
Photo By: German Army Sgt. Maj. Pia Dunkel, NATO
VIRIN: 191128-D-PD249-036C

The instrument stayed in the family, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott A. Kindsvater ultimately inherited the instrument from his grandfather. It was always the will of the family to find the owner of the accordion and return it after they discovered a small engraving referencing the previous owner, "M. Kupp - Schleiden." A decadelong search ensued that yielded results.

While serving as the deputy chief of staff for operations and intelligence at Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium, the general issued a request to the German city of Schleiden for help in the search for any surviving descendants of the Kupp family. His executive officer, German Lt. Col. Aicke Lippert, assisted in the effort.

Air Force three-star general signs a book while seated at a table.
Lt. Gen. Scott A. Kindsvater
Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott A. Kindsvater, deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee, signs the city’s Golden Book in Schleiden, Germany, after he handed over an accordion lost during World War II to Christel Nierhoff, Nov. 28, 2019. Kindsvater inherited the accordion from his grandfather, who found the instrument with a fallen German soldier during World War II. The general returned the accordion, which had been in his family's possession for 74 years, to Nierhoff, the original owner’s sister.
Photo By: German Army Sgt. Maj. Pia Dunkel, NATO
VIRIN: 191128-D-PD249-033

Amazingly, they found the Kupp family. And after his appointment as deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Kindsvater worked to return the accordion to the family.

The original owner, Mia Kupp, died in 2007. But her surviving sister, 87-year-old Christel Nierhoff, agreed to host a ceremony with the city of Schleiden, where the instrument was handed over Nov. 28.

Air Force three-star general presents accordion to woman.
Accordion Return
Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott A. Kindsvater, deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee, hands over an accordion to Christel Nierhoff in Schleiden, Germany, Nov. 28, 2019. Kindsvater inherited the accordion from his grandfather, who found the instrument with a fallen German soldier during World War II, and he returned the case to Nierhoff, sister of the accordion’s original owner, after it had been in his family's possession for 74 years.
Photo By: German Army Sgt. Maj. Pia Dunkel, NATO
VIRIN: 191128-D-PD249-041

In front of family, friends, city officials and the people of Schleiden, Kindsvater acknowledged how special the event was for him and his family — including his cousin, Alan Kindsvater, who flew in from St. Louis with his wife and children for the event.

"It is fitting that we give this heirloom that has become an heirloom in my family back to the Kupp family," the general said. "Thank you to the mayor, the Kupp family, the town of Schleiden and my German executive officer, Aicke Lippert, for making this family dream a reality."