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STILLWATER, Minn. — Love letters written in a Nazi labor camp during World War II have finally made their way to their intended recipients, 70 years after they were first penned.
The letters were written by Marcel Heuzé, a French toolmaker and turner who was deported in 1942 to Marienfelde, southwest Berlin, to help the Nazi war effort in its Compulsory Work Service.
Heuzé, who worked in the Daimler-Benz factory producing tanks, engines and armored vehicles, sent dozens of letters to his wife and three daughters between 1942 and 1944. Many of the letters never found their way to the family, though, until a graphic designer in Minnesota discovered the letters and tracked down the family.
Carolyn Porter, 43, found the letters in 2002 in an antiques shop. She said it was the elegant script that caught her eye.
"The letters were written in French, and even though I couldn't read them, it was obvious that they were written with care," she wrote in an email to Yahoo.
Porter translated the letters beginning in the summer of 2011 and began to piece together the puzzle of who the man was and for whom the letters were intended. She learned of how Heuzé suffered without his loved ones present.
"Time seems to go so slowly without you and without my girls," he wrote in one of the letters. "All the letters I receive tell me that I'm awaited with impatience and it makes me sad," he wrote in another.
As the story unfolded, Porter found herself unable to draw herself away from it.
The service was created under the laws of Vichy France and was meant to help Germany make up for its loss of manpower as more of its population was enlisted to fight the war on the Eastern Front.
The French were promised that for every three workers sent to Germany, one French prisoner of war would be released.
The program resulted in hundreds of thousands of French workers being sent to Nazi Germany.
"I just wanted to know whether he had lived, whether this man returned to the wife and daughters he loved so much. I knew it was unlikely given the horrible things he described, but I was hoping, hoping for a happy ending," she told the Daily Telegraph.
With the help of a genealogist, Porter finally identified the man and learned that he had lived to return to his family.
"The day they told me that Marcel had lived to return home to his family, I started bawling as I thought it was so unlikely," she said.
She has already given one batch of letters to Heuzé's family, and will return to Paris in two weeks to deliver a second batch, this one found in California, according to Yahoo.
Tiffanie Raux, Heuzé's great-granddaughter, told the Telegraph she thought the letters were a hoax at first.
"Then when we realised it was true, it was like a magnificent film," she said. "It gave my grandmother so much joy but also sadness that her parents were not there to see them."
Raux said the family could not be more thankful for Porter's actions.
"It's very American," she said. "I'm not sure people in France would have gone to all that trouble."
Image credit: Daily Telegraph