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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2002

Fritz Vincken, bakery owner, dead at 69

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Former Honolulu baker Fritz Vincken died Dec. 8 in Oregon, 16 days before the 57th anniversary of well-publicized Christmas story of "the night God came to dinner."

Fritz Vincken's family took in GIs, German soldiers on Christmas Eve 1944.

Advertiser library photo

Vincken was 12 years old when three American and four German soldiers converged on his house in the Ardennes Forest near the German-Belgium border on a harsh winter night in 1944. It was Christmas Eve and Vincken's mother, Elisabeth, offered food and shelter to the soldiers after they agreed to put their weapons down to share an evening of good will and peace.

After a restful night, the soldiers went their separate ways but not before the Germans gave the Americans a compass and directions back to their front lines.

In recalling the story in his 1985 visit to Germany, President Reagan noted that it "needs to be told and retold because none of us can ever hear too much about building peace and reconciliation."

The 69-year-old Vincken, former owner of Fritz's European Bakery in Kapalama, had been living in Hawai'i Kai but moved to Salem, Ore., in September, according to his daughter, Elizabeth Vincken-Saberon. His health had not been good in recent years, she added.

Fritz Vincken tried to find the seven soldiers after the war. It wasn't until the story was featured on a March 1995 "Unsolved Mysteries" television episode that Vincken learned about a man at Northampton Manor Nursing Home in Frederick, Md., who had been telling family and friends the same story for years.

In January 1996, Vincken went to Maryland to meet Ralph Blank, who had served with the 121st Infantry, 8th Division, during World War II. "When he told me, 'Your mother saved my life,' it was the high point of the life," Vincken said of the reunion. "Now, I can die in peace. My mother's courage won't be forgotten and it shows what good will will do."

Vincken, who was born in Aachem, Germany, is survived by his wife, Erna, daughter and two grandchildren. Private services were held in Silverton, Ore.