The Coastal Cairns at Slakken and the Deserter Cabin
The large coastal cairns at Slakken are memorials to friends and loved ones buried during the Early Iron Age, more than 1,500 years ago. The cairns are particularly visible from the sea, and to seafarers they signalled that people lived on this land. The dead residing in the mounds could gaze across both land and ocean, keeping up with whatever was happening.
The last world war is ending. Germany is on the defensive. Here at Stadsbygda, Hitler’s men have stationed troops at two separate bases. Many of the young Germans here are most likely war weary, fearing for their future.
There are no witnesses to what is about to happen, we can only imagine how it unfolded: It’s the middle of March 1945. Under the cover of darkness, a young German soldier sneaks away from the Rødberg barracks. The escape takes him inward through the forest towards the old village road at Berga. He seeks shelter there, beneath some large trees near a rock face. He is probably mentally unstable.
Nevertheless, he realizes the need for better shelter. There is a large cairn just in front of him. The young soldier then, as gently and quietly as possible, begins to construct a stone cabin along the rock face. A couple of tree trunks become purlins, and across them he stretches the remnants of a parachute. He knows perfectly well that if he is discovered and captured as a deserter, he will never see home again. He will die from a bullet through the head, at the hands of his own officers.
We can vividly imagine the trauma and horrors experienced by the deserter in his stone shelter. The old village road, frequently travelled, is only 80 meters to the north. The cold makes it impossible to sleep. But worse is the knowledge that German shepherd dogs could soon be sniffing out his hiding place.
Food shortages are becoming a problem. The rations he brought with him are soon exhausted, and the hunger stings his intestines. Aid comes from the nearest farm. Johan Reitan accidentally discovers the shelter and the exhausted soldier. In secret, he supplies the deserter with food, drink and warm clothes, allowing him to survive until the 8th of May. The day the Germans surrender, and the war is finally over.
The people who once carried stones to the burial cairn, never knew that the same stones, sometime far into the future, would be the salvation of a forlorn German deserter.