Germany still re-burying 40,000 WW2 soldiers a year

Status
Not open for further replies.

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#1
Lest we underestimate the savagery of the fighting on the Eastern front, there is a sobering story in the English version of Der Spiegel.

Germany Tracing Its War Dead from World War II - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Some 3 million German soldiers died in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in World War II, and the fate of hundreds of thousands of them remains unknown to their relatives and descendants...The end of the Cold War over two decades ago enabled the organization to start locating grave sites, identifying bodies and re-interring them in new cemeteries across Russia and the Eastern European countries invaded by the German army. Some 716,000 German war dead have been found and reburied since then, and that number increases by 40,000 each year, the commission said. The database processes some 20,000 searches per month.

Soldiers were often buried hastily where they fell, or near field dressing stations and hospitals where they died of their wounds. Most of the burial sites are unmarked, and some are mass graves, said Kirchmeier. "We have gathered a lot of records from the war and we use them to locate cemeteries. Then our staff travel there to try to pinpoint them.

"We rely on the help of local eyewitnesses, which is a further aspect putting us under time pressure because these people are of course very old and we won't be able to ask them in 10 years' time. We often come too late. Sites have often been plundered by people who searched the graves looking for items they can sell."

Sometimes, the commission's teams get a hostile reception.

"Some people are happy when the dead are taken away from their land but occasionally we still encounter massive resentment by local people," said Kirchmeier. "The memory of the occupation by the Germans and of the war crimes is still very alive." The war claimed 20 million lives in the Soviet Union and 6 million in Poland alone. The forces of Nazi Germany laid waste to vast swaths of the land they conquered in a war of annihilation that targeted civilians from the start.
The war in the West was fought largely according to the Geneva convention and with a lower casualty rate than the East. But 40,000 reburials a year, many unmarked and after all this time - makes you think about the sheer carnage of what went on on the Eastern Front. Add in the Russian dead and the civilians the Nazis (and to a lesser extent the Russians) butchered and the scale gets still greater.

Wordsmith
 

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
it makes you think doesn't it ? do you know the percentage of unknown corpses ? it seems so sad that you have graves with no names on them . no matter which army they served in .
 
#3
Probably not well known because all Germans who died in the war are often wrongly equated to NAZIs. So it's probably been kept quiet due to modern day embarrassment of what people before us got up to.

I never had the thought, or the time to ask my grandad about "his" war. I thought I was living one of my own only a few years after joining up. I remember him once saying though, in response to I can't exactly remember...: "They were sailors, not nazis". I think I asked him if he hated them or something like that. Dunno, I was young and can't remember exactly.

Wish I could ask the ****** a few questions now though...
 
#5
Should have made things easier for themselves like they did for their victims......
how many of ours who have died in Afg were dyed in the wool New Labour supporters who were born with an inherrent hatred of all things dari?
 
#6
I never had the thought, or the time to ask my grandad about "his" war. I thought I was living one of my own only a few years after joining up. I remember him once saying though, in response to I can't exactly remember...: "They were sailors, not nazis". I think I asked him if he hated them or something like that. Dunno, I was young and can't remember exactly.
My grandad had nothing against the Germans, for more or less the same reason - but despised the French. Absolutely ******* hated them. Not sure why.
 
#7
how many of ours who have died in Afg were dyed in the wool New Labour supporters who were born with an inherrent hatred of all things dari?

Who knows?...probably not as many who shot and beat to death people who could have been your harmless, kindly white haired grandmother, mother,father,little nephew.

Mate, I know that most of the Germans were probabaly just PBI/young men called up to fight for their country and may have never been involved in anything remotely like genocide/mass murder....just trying to put things into perspective for other people who's relatives have no known grave.
 
#8
it makes you think doesn't it ? do you know the percentage of unknown corpses ? it seems so sad that you have graves with no names on them . no matter which army they served in .
I've just been working through the WW1 names on my local memorial - horrifying number of times the CWGC records Thiepval, Arras, Menin Gate or Tyne Cot memorials, rather than giving a grave number.
 

slab

Old-Salt
#9
Just returned from a British Legion trip to Ypres salient, where we visited many of the Commonwealth War Graves including Tyne Cot, Essex Farm and others. Beautiful, peaceful and poignant are some of the words that come to mind. We also visited the German cemetary at Langemark - much darker and oppressive in nature - no less poignant though and notable that 4/6 bodies were located under each headstone. Just being there in the rain and looking across the bare fields made gave just a tiny glimmer of what it was like. We were lucky to be invited to the re-dedication of 3 WW2 Allied Spitfire pilot graves in Ypres: they had been killed on ops in 1942. Relatives of the Czech and British pilots were there too. Speaking to them afterwards one got an impression of how much it meant to them as families. On a human level, if the German War Graves Commission can achieve a tenth of that closure, it will have been worth it, even 3 or 4 generations on.
 
#10
My grandad had nothing against the Germans, for more or less the same reason - but despised the French. Absolutely ******* hated them. Not sure why.
Was your Grandad a matelot? Mine was, and he hated the ... ******* as well! Them & Italians.
My Grandad never really spoke about it much and in the years I knew him - I never thought to ask much.
Anyobody else opened up the box of documents and found out things you never knew and thought: "Why didn't the ****** say something?!"

No - he was not partial to wearing black maskers either. He downplayed a hell of a lot though.
Understated.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#11
Just returned from a British Legion trip to Ypres salient, where we visited many of the Commonwealth War Graves including Tyne Cot, Essex Farm and others. Beautiful, peaceful and poignant are some of the words that come to mind. We also visited the German cemetary at Langemark - much darker and oppressive in nature - no less poignant though and notable that 4/6 bodies were located under each headstone. Just being there in the rain and looking across the bare fields made gave just a tiny glimmer of what it was like. We were lucky to be invited to the re-dedication of 3 WW2 Allied Spitfire pilot graves in Ypres: they had been killed on ops in 1942. Relatives of the Czech and British pilots were there too. Speaking to them afterwards one got an impression of how much it meant to them as families. On a human level, if the German War Graves Commission can achieve a tenth of that closure, it will have been worth it, even 3 or 4 generations on.
I've been told that the dark oppressive nature of the Langemark Cemetary is a how the Belgiuns want(ed) it. The Germans were unwanted guests and they don't (didn't) want them to forget it.

Last year I visited Verdun while on EX in France. The French have a German flag as well as the Tricolour and the Eurosnotrag flying over Fort Douaumont which was occupied by the Germans and contains the graves of a lot of Germans.
 
#12
Was your Grandad a matelot? Mine was, and he hated the ... ******* as well! Them & Italians.
My Grandad never really spoke about it much and in the years I knew him - I never thought to ask much.
Anyobody else opened up the box of documents and found out things you never knew and thought: "Why didn't the ****** say something?!"

No - he was not partial to wearing black maskers either. He downplayed a hell of a lot though.
Understated.
Same here with my Granddad, as a small boy of about 7 or 8 I remember being really disappointed that he was 'only' an AB during WW2 and how he didn't have any decent stories to tell. Learnt much later when I was a teenager reading his service record, and after his death, that he'd been sunk more times than Uncle Albert on the Arctic Convoys, had lost a foot after being torpedoed late on in the war, probably lost more muckers than I've had hot dinners and was pretty mentally ruined. All in all not stories really suitable for a 7 year old!
 
#13
Yep, that's exactly what I found as well.

He never mentioned bloody half of it to anyone...except his gash dit about being Champion of the Med at boxing ... his docs actually show he got 3 days off for a broken thumb after a fight in the gut in Malta!

Anyone reading this with relatives still alive who were in WW2...

Ask them now. Or you'll end up like me and many others thinking "If only I...:
 
#14
They were products of their environments. In those days you kept it all in. Everyone your age had served and a knowing nod would convey more then a thousand words ever could. My Grandad never, ever spoke about his experiences during WW1 and his sons were surprised at what they learned after his death.
 
#15
The comedy gold I found in my granddad's records was that he'd been promoted to Able Seaman 4 times and once the dizzy heights of LH during the war years, each time lasting a few months before being demoted - because the daft old bastard was scared of needles! He skived inoculations until it was made a direct order, which he flat out disobeyed. Looking back it's lucky he wasn't shot :)
 
#16
There's a phot of the ****** here to the left of me.

So easy to think ya daft old twat....

<Nods towards photo smiling>

Thing is...most of my Grandad's bullshits were buggerall compared to what he took part in but never mentioned. Like many others of his time...Upper lip.
 
#17
This doesn't suprise me as I recall a documentary about Stalingrad opening showing German bones lying out in the open countryside nobody bothering to bury them. When you think of the disregard the Soviets shown thier own populace, some dead invaders are going to get no reverance at all
 
#18
one of my aunties married a german fellah whose father was a luftwaffe pilot flying a bomber
got shot down over russia in 43
i was only a chissler when his mother came to ireland back in the 70s to visit him so we asked her what it was like during the war
she told a story of having dinner in a restarant in paris and looking out at a woman rooting in a bin for something to eat
and not realising that she would be doing the same just over a year later....
told us a few storys about the allies behavior after the war was over aswell
 
#19
It's too late now, but my Mum would have been pleased to possibly find out where her brother had been buried. According to his Platoon Sergeant he caught a bullet in the head and died instantly – but if you talk to enough people who lived through the times, you'll soon find that, allegedly, most Reichswehr soldiers on the Eastern Front died that way. Who'd a thought the Russkis were so good with their Kalashnikovs!

It was all particularly galling for Mum's parents, my maternal-grandparents, though. Timeline:

May 1933 – Sep 1938 : Granddad is taken away by the Gestapo several times for a chat about the state of things – on one occasion for over 6 months.

Sep '38 : During the so-called Munich Crisis Granddad doesn't believe a word of what Goebbels was saying, so he tunes in to the BBC German Service to get an alternate view. A big mistake – the BBC has already been declared a "Feindsender" (enemy transmitter), the Blockwart overhears it and bubbles him to the Gestapo, a quick trial in the People's Court and he gets clouted with four and a half years at the concentration camp in Oldenburg. Grandma, who had been listening with him, gets 3 years at a concentration camp near Aschaffenburg. Their kids are now being cared for by a relative. The money "Aunt Mimi" received from the state was not a "dole", it was a 'loan', one that Granddad would have to pay back after his release!

Sep 1939 : Being a patriot, but not a Nazi, Uncle Heinrich applies to join the Reichswehr. Rejected, because he was the son of a "Staatsfeind" (Enemy of the State).

Summer 1941 : Adolf decides he could find a use for Uncle Heinrich after all! Duly conscripted, but his parents still have to complete their sentences.

Autumn 1941 : Grandma is released, Uncle Heinrich is already on the Eastern Front, and Mum, with her younger sister, has been evacuated to Freudenstadt in the Sauerland, because of the bomb threat. Being the daughters of a "Staatsfeind" they are 'made welcome'.

June 1942 : Telegramme received about Uncle Heinrich's demise. The neighbours had to "restrain" Grandma – what she was saying about Adolf and his buddies would have taken her straight back to Aschaffenburg.

May 1943 : Grandad released, just in time to help clear up the mess that 617 Squadron left behind. Fröndenberg lies about 20 clicks downriver from the Mohne Dam.

The most galling bit for me though is that the Blockwart that ran to the Gestapo in 1938 was still alive and well and living in Fröndenberg in 1998. But nobody would point me in the right direction! I wonder why?

As for the Rubarth family, there were thousands just like them during the Nazi period. Rather a pity there weren’t millions just like them.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#20
I think part of the reasons that the burial rate is so high is that Eastern Front battlefields are being dug up and plundered at an astonishing rate.
The bodies are often tossed to one side after being stripped of anything marketable.
I assume these are then reported back to the German Goverment and they re bury them.

As to Grandad hated the Italians called them lazy bastards and told me once about giving them a bayonet *********** to get them moving.
Seemed to have made the dizzy heights pff Cpl but that was removed for putting hands on a Sgt (at high speed and to his chin)
My mother has a very nice lamp that a great uncle removed from Germany and I remember my grandads bottom drawer containg a Luger
My aunt as far as I know handed it in to a police station after he died.
My mother and aunt are both convinced that they had a Tommy Gun wehen they were kids.
My mother remembers in the late 50's the police coming and asking him to paint it silver so they new that they were just using it as a toy.

No armed sieges back in those days.

"Got a Tommy Gun"
"Yeah the kids are playing with it"
"Nip the firing pin out and paint it silver will you no more will be said"
"Ok"
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Similar threads

Latest Threads

Top