Military cemetery

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A military cemetery (also: Memorial Cemetery , obsolete: Fallen cemetery ) is a tomb on during a war fallen soldiers are buried. Military cemeteries are protected as a military version of a war cemetery .

Military cemeteries are not always located in the actual theater of war. Some of these facilities are separate burial grounds within civil cemeteries. Soldiers' graves are often also found in spatial connection with prisoner-of-war camps or military hospitals . Fallen have also been partially converted into their homelands, and to honor cemeteries buried . Following British tradition ship may wrecks as was grave ( English , literally war grave ) be declared and thus receive the special protection status of the Geneva Conventions.

The reason for the change in language from a military cemetery to a war cemetery in recent decades is that a large number of those buried were by no means combatants and died as victims of direct military combat, but rather from the inhumane conditions of camp detention, such as prisoners of war . In addition, there are civilian deaths from bomb attacks and the victims of forced labor during the Nazi era .

In the past, soldiers' graves were considered by many people to be places of “hero remembrance”, today war cemeteries are viewed by the majority of Europeans as places of reminder for peace and against war and violence - especially because of the experiences of the First and Second World Wars with millions of dead.

High cross and war graves in Cologne's south cemetery
Central office of the Lübeck cemetery of honor

International legal basis

Today, the Geneva Conventions provide internationally binding principles for the establishment and maintenance of war cemeteries. In the additional protocol of 1977, Art. 34 mortal remains states :

“The mortal remains of persons who died in connection with an occupation or during an imprisonment caused by occupation or hostility, and of persons who were not nationals of the state in which they died as a result of hostilities, are respected; The graves of all these persons are also respected, maintained and marked in accordance with Article 130 of the IV. Agreement [...]. "

- Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, June 8, 1977.

Military cemeteries in Germany

British Military Cemetery Rheinberg War Cemetery 1939–1945
Memorial stone: "Their Name Liveth For Evermore"

Graves of German soldiers

Besch war cemetery in Saarland

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the law on the preservation of the graves of victims of war and tyranny ( Graves Act ) has been in force since 1952 . The domestic war cemeteries were placed in the care of the respective communities. The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. is dedicated to the task of collecting, preserving and caring for the graves of German war dead abroad on behalf of the Federal Government.

Most of those buried in military cemeteries on German soil during the First World War died in military hospitals, during fighting in the border areas in the north-east and south-west, or during the first bombing raids on West Germany. Combat operations took place on German territory only to a comparatively small extent at the beginning of the war, namely in East Prussia and Upper Alsace (see border battles # First World War ).

During the Second World War, especially from 1944 onwards, far more German soldiers and civilians died on the territory of what is now the Federal Republic of Germany . For example, they are buried in the Halbe forest cemetery in Brandenburg, on the Golm hill on Usedom , the Obermarchtal military cemetery (Baden-Württemberg) or the Eversberg cemetery in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Bitburg-Kolmeshöhe military cemetery in the Rhineland-Palatinate district town of Bitburg became particularly well-known due to the visit of Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and US President Ronald Reagan on May 8, 1985 and the “ Bitburg controversy ”.

Some of the German soldiers who died in both World Wars are buried in community cemeteries (→ Category: Cemetery in Germany ), often in separate areas marked as a military cemetery or cemetery of honor , for example at the main cemetery in Dortmund , the Öjendorf cemetery in Hamburg or the Cologne south cemetery .

Soviet war cemeteries

In Germany there are a total of 760,000 graves of war dead from the Soviet Union . This includes both individual graves in community cemeteries and large war cemeteries with tens of thousands of dead. The majority come from the time of the Second World War , from 1940 to 1945. They are soldiers of the Red Army , Soviet prisoners of war or victims of forced labor during the Nazi era .

Commonwealth War Graves Commission war cemeteries

Other war cemeteries

Graves in Austria

Military cemetery at the Vienna Central Cemetery

In Austria, according to the War Graves Act of 1948, the Federal Government is responsible for the permanent maintenance of military cemeteries on Austrian territory . But after the First World War was the en Laye Treaty of St. Germain in Articles 171 and 172 specifies that the grave sites of soldiers and sailors, by the government in whose territory they are having to deal with respect and to receive are .

After the Second World War, the issue was only regulated in the Austrian State Treaty in 1955. This not only includes soldiers, but also all civilians who were forcibly brought to Austria.

The care of both the cemeteries and individual graves was carried out by the Austrian Black Cross , which also looks after them abroad.

Situation in other countries

Graves of German soldiers

German military cemetery near Rovaniemi , Finland
German war cemetery in Vantaa near Helsinki , Finland
German military cemetery during the First World War on the Eastern Front , around 1916
Mass grave that has not yet been closed on the
German military cemetery in Insterburg created by the VDK . The small wooden coffins with the mortal remains of German soldiers are numbered, starting on the left with "2035" (photo from 1999)

The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge is responsible for the maintenance of cemeteries abroad where German soldiers are buried on behalf of the Federal Government. To this end, Germany has signed bilateral agreements with numerous countries . There are German war graves in 100 countries around the world, and the Volksbund looks after a total of two million war graves in 44 countries.

The largest foreign cemetery for German soldiers is the war cemetery of the Second World War in Sologubowka near Saint Petersburg , the largest in Western Europe is the Belgian military cemetery Lommel with 39,102 burials and the largest in Italy is the German military cemetery Futapass with 30,683 buried dead. Other well-known military cemeteries include the German military cemetery Langemark in Belgium for 44,304 German soldiers who died in World War I, the small German military cemetery in Nazareth in Israel for 261 German soldiers from the First World War, and the war cemetery in Bordj Cedria in Tunisia with 8,562 German dead of the Tunisia campaign 1942–1943 and the German military cemetery Maleme on Crete with 4,465 dead, mainly those who fell in the airborne battle over Crete . About 9,900 German dead in Greece were buried in the German military cemetery Dionyssos-Rapendoza near Athens .

Numerous German soldiers are also buried in international military cemeteries and memorials, many victims of the Battle of Verdun (1916), for example in the Douaumont ossuary . The southernmost German soldier's grave is on the Kerguelen in the southern Indian Ocean.

France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg

Especially in France and Belgium (z. B. Military Cemetery Lommel ) there are large military cemeteries where soldiers of both the Central Powers and from the area of the British Commonwealth and the United States are buried who died there in two world wars (see. Memory of Operation Overlord ).

Numerous military cemeteries from the First World War can be found around Verdun , the Somme, the Ainse (all in France) and near Ypres in Belgium. In Great Britain, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was founded in 1914 ; its first president was Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII ). The German counterpart, the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge , was founded in December 1919. The Austrian Black Cross was also founded in 1919. The US Congress established the American Battle Monuments Commission by law in March 1923 .

All German soldiers who died in the Netherlands are buried in the Dutch military cemetery in Ysselsteyn , where 32,000 war dead from the Second World War are buried. The German soldiers who fell in northwestern France and on the Channel Islands are lying in the Mont d'Huisnes military cemetery . In Andilly there are 33,000 German soldiers who died in the north-east of the Second World War.

10,913 German soldiers are buried at the Sandweiler military cemetery in Luxembourg . With the exception of the Clausen garrison cemetery, which is a listed building and contains 459 soldiers' graves, all German soldiers who died in Luxembourg are buried here.

United States

Since the Second World War, fallen US soldiers have been transferred back to the USA as far as possible. American soldiers are buried either in their hometown or at one of the 139 United States National Cemeteries , depending on loved ones .

Particular care is taken to ensure that soldiers who perished on the territory of opposing states do not finally find their final resting place on this territory. On the other hand, there are US war cemeteries on the territories of states with which the USA was allied in the world wars or that were neutral . In the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, west of the university city of Cambridge in England, a total of 3812 fallen American soldiers lie who lost their lives in France, Italy and North Africa during World War II.

After the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, American soldiers who had died just east of Germany's western border were permanently buried in cemeteries in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.


24,204 German war dead, including 14,757 refugees, rest on Danish soil (as of 1966). These were buried in 479 different cemeteries.

In 1962 Denmark and Germany signed a German-Danish war graves agreement. It envisaged that many of the dead "for the purpose of better monitoring and care of the graves" would be transferred to 30 cemeteries, where most of them rest. When the reburial was supposed to begin in 1965/66, a controversy arose.

Photo project: "The War Graves Photographic Project"

“The War Graves Photographic Project” initially aimed to photograph every single war grave and memorial in collaboration with the CWGC ( Commonwealth War Graves Commission ). This was very popular; It was decided to photograph war graves of all nationalities and make them traceable in a database. In March 2012 it contained over 1.7 million photos.

See also

Web links

Commons : Military Cemetery  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Military cemetery  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Additional Protocol of June 8, 1977 to the Geneva Agreement of August 12, 1949 on the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts , Section III Missing and Dead (SR 0.518.521), at the federal authorities of the Swiss Confederation , [28. October 2007].
  2. Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth: Announcement of the new version of the Graves Act of January 29, 1993 ( Memento of July 20, 2004 in the Internet Archive ) ( PDF , 568 kB), October 28, 2007.
  3. on August 7th, French troops captured Mulhouse ; on August 9th they lost it again. After a new conquest, the city and all Alsatian areas with the exception of the Dollertal and some Vosges heights fell back to the Germans on August 24 for the remainder of the war. General Louis Bonneau , in command of the French attack, was dismissed by Joffre. (Jean-Jacques Becker, Gerd Krumeich: The Great War. Germany and France 1914–1918. Translated from the French by Marcel Küstner and Peter Böttner. Klartext-Verlag, Essen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8375-0171-1 , p. 202 ff .; John Keegan: The First World War. A European Tragedy . 2nd Edition, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-499-61194-5 , p. 136 ff.)
  4. The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge eV ... , short profile on the official website , [28. October 2007].
  5. Martin Fröhlich: War cemeteries and memorials in the Düren district
  6. February 14, 1966: What Danes think . Quote: “Most of the Danes criticized the funeral treaty not only because it allowed the Germans to dig around in their churchyards. She was even more bothered by the fact that the war cemeteries established by the Federal Republic are privileged: Dead Danes usually rest for 20 years, or at most 60 years at the request of their relatives. Then their graves will be leveled. The Germans, however, should keep their places in Danish soil forever. This perpetual right to rest for fallen warriors is not a German, but an American invention. It originates from the US Civil War and was adopted by the European nations after the First World War - in the hope that the long rows of soldiers' graves would forever call for the reconciliation of the peoples. The Danes had little understanding for this. Peaceful and no longer actively involved in armed forces for 100 years, they make no distinction between war and peace deaths. Only kings and celebrities like the storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, the philosopher Sören Kierkegaard, the nuclear researcher Niels Bohr and the pastor and playwright Kaj Munk - who was shot by the Gestapo as a resistance fighter - enjoy perpetual right of rest. And now, of all people, the Germans are claiming the rights of the Danish kings. "