- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - A church in suburban Detroit is returning an altar cloth donated by a World War II veteran to the German church from which it came.

The cloth was handed over to Fred Hoffman, Michigan honorary consul for Germany, during a special ceremony Sunday at Atonement Lutheran Church in Dearborn. Hoffman will present the cloth June 12 in Berlin to German officials and church members with St. Michael’s Evangelical Church in Jena, Germany, where the cloth originally was displayed.

“The foreign ministry and the German government are delighted that this is happening,” he said.

The return of the cloth is symbolic of the U.S. and Germany becoming “best friends,” according to Hoffman.

“For some reason, that cloth was preserved and saved all these years so that it could represent a message of atonement, reconciliation,” he said, “observance of the 70th anniversary of the warm relationship that we now enjoy between the United States and Germany.”

U.S. Army veteran William Woodrow Anderson, 92, he didn’t realize the significance of the cloth when he took it from the church amid the rubble of war-torn eastern Germany, he told the Detroit Free Press (https://on.freep.com/1FYsWhG ).

“I was young and didn’t know any better,” he said about taking the cloth. “The church was bombed out, anyway.”

Anderson, who now lives in California, served in WWII during the Battle of the Bulge. He mailed the intricate altar cloth, which is hand-embroidered with vines, grapes, flowers and a dove representing the Holy Spirit, along with other items collected overseas, back to the U.S.

“They say there’s no hatred toward Americans from most of the Germans,” he said, reflecting on the devastation he saw in Germany. “That’s kind of surprising. But I guess history heals most wounds, you know.”

Anderson is OK with the cloth being returned to Germany, he said.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com

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