German War Graves Commission

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German War Graves Commission
Volksbund logo.png
German War Graves Commission Logo
Abbreviation VDK
Motto Work for Peace (in German: Arbeit für den Frieden)
Formation 16 December 1919
Legal status
Association
Purpose To locate, maintain, care for German war graves outside of Germany
Headquarters Kassel, Hesse, Germany
Region served
Europe and North Africa (45 countries)
Membership 114,098 (2013)[1]
Official language
German
President
Markus Meckel[1]
Main organ
until 2012: Stimme & Weg, from 2013 on: frieden
Budget EUR 41,203,000 (2013)
Staff 571 (2013)
Volunteers 8,000 (2013)
Website http://www.volksbund.de
Remarks Name of the association in German: Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V.

The German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge in German) is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of German war graves in Europe and North Africa.[2] Its objectives are: "acquisition, maintenance and care of German war graves"; "tending to next of kin"; "youth and educational work"; and "preservation of the memory to the sacrifices of war and despotism".

Foundation in 1919[edit]

It was founded as a private charity on December 16, 1919 as the recognised [German] Commission under the war graves provisions of Article 225 of the Treaty of Versailles.[2]

Members, Offices[edit]

By the 1930s, the Commission had established numerous cemeteries for German World War I dead.[2] During World War II, the Volksbund's work was mostly carried out by the Wehrmacht's own graves service.[2]

After World War II, the Volksbund resumed its work in 1946 and soon established more than 400 war cemeteries in Germany.[2] In 1954, the German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, tasked the Volksbund with the establishment, care and upkeep of German war cemeteries abroad.[2]

Philosophy[edit]

To guard the memory of the victims of war and violence, to work for peace among all nations and to guarantee dignity of men, these are the main goals in the statutes of the German War Graves Commission. All activities of German War Graves Commission have to harmonize with these general principles.[3]

Members and private donators[edit]

The German War Graves Commission spent about 41 Million Euro (in 2013). Two thirds of this sum is financed by members and private donations. Only about one third is paid by government (war graves outside of Germany) and states (maintenance of some war graves within Germany).[1]

Activities[edit]

Casualties, war graves, prisoner of war graves[edit]

Today, it looks after about "832 military cemeteries in 45 countries with about 2.6 million dead" and its work is carried out today by 8,000 honorary and 571 full-time employees.[1] Now that the Cold War is over, the Volksbund has access to Eastern Europe, where the bulk of World War II German casualties occurred.[2] Since 1991, 188 World War I cemeteries and 330 World War II cemeteries in eastern, central and south-eastern Europe have been reconstructed or rebuilt and about 759,110 bodies have been buried in new graves.[2] Everyday maintenance of German war cemeteries in France is looked after by the Service d'Entretien des Sépultures Militaires Allemandes (the "German Military Burials Maintenance Service") known as S.E.S.M.A..[4]

  • With 46 foreign partner countries bilateral war grave agreements were settled by the year 2013.[1] Requests on foreign war graves in Germany will be dealt with by German War Graves Commission.[5]
  • On behalf of German Government the construction, repair and care of German War cemeteries outside of Germany is dealt with by the section care and repair of war cemeteries (in German: Referat Friedhofspflege und Bauunterhaltung). In 2010 the workload covered more than 330 war cemeteries of World War I and World War II and more than 800 war cemeteries/memorial sites of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.[6]
  • The German War Graves Commission (Volksbund) cooperates with and uses the files of Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) in Berlin (Register of German soldiers killed in action or who became prisoners of war). This bureau collects and preserves data and dog tags of active German soldiers of World War II. The Volksbund is in close contact with other tracing services, e. g. the German Red Cross. Information gathered on occasion of exhumation of bodies will be recorded by Volksbund. These records will be transferred to other tracing institutions in order to identify missing people (e. g. by dog tags) and to update files.
  • Bodies of war deads are searched for and transferred to central cemeteries in Eastern Europe, Germany and Western Europe by the exhumation service of Volksbund (in German: Umbettungsdienst). There were still 36,943 exhumations in the year 2013.[1] Search for undetected burial places of war deads is made possible by records of WASt, time witnesses, historical photographs of World War II cemeteries, assistance of local people and also when building new roads or houses.[6] Names of missing soldiers are remembered, e. g. in Rossoschka German war cemetery on cubes out of granite as memento for the family members and as warning sign for future generations in their effort to live in peace.[7]
  • The exhumation service documents in a draft manual document for each body of a soldier found the grave site, the dog tag (if still there), the rests of clothes and other individual belongings, human height, characteristics of human skeleton, state of dental notation to make it easier to identify later unknown soldiers.[8]
  • From about 6,200 cemeteries for German prisoners of war 180 were reconstructed (state: 2011). All cemeteries for prisoners of war can not be maintained. So only a selection of prisoner of war cemeteries will serve the memory for those who died in war captivity.[9]

War grave database online[edit]

The German War Graves Commission offers an Online-Service with free access to everyone [10] to locate an individual war grave or the fate of a missing German soldier using a database with about 4.6 million entries (state 2013) concerning World War I & II.[1]

This datafile of mostly German military persons who were killed during World War I and II indicates the military cemeteries in which they are buried. About one million data files deal with the times of World War I. These datafiles were continually enlarged and deepened. Data of military persons who died during World War II but whose graves could not yet be found and data of missing soldiers were added. Deutsche Dienstelle (WASt) in Berlin helped to find out additional and unknown data.

War cemeteries and war dead of World War I and II inside of Germany are also documented in these files (895,561 in 2010). Among these are war dead transferred to Germany or persons who died within Germany. But only those are registered whose remains were transferred to war cemetery areas within civil cemeteries but not to individual family graves.

Further in this database persons can be found who died by aerial bombing of cities, as prisoner of war or in imprisonment, partly foreign members of German auxiliary troops who died in World War II or even some members of Wehrmacht who died before World War II began.

A grave research demand (Grabnachforschungsauftrag in German) can be sent online or as hardcopy to Volksbund (German War Grave Commission) to clarify the unknown fate of a German soldier. As some family names are very common it is important to mention all given names and the date of birth of the missing soldier. As additional data should be given if available: date of death, last unit (Truppenteil in German) and last letters. Often withdrawing troops could not bury their losses. Detailed data on war deads of World War I were destroyed in Berlin during World War II,[8] by aerial bombing in February 1945 where the files of the bureau Zentralnachweiseamt für Kriegerverluste und Kriegsgräber (ZNA) got lost.[11]

War cemetery database online[edit]

Volksbund has also an online database on war cemeteries. Data collected for each cemetery are location (geography), how to reach, number of dead, course of military events in the region and architecture of the cemetery.[12] The search for war cemeteries can also be done in geographical order (country, cemetery).[13]

War-graves commissions in other countries[edit]

List of German cemeteries by country/conflict[edit]

German War Graves Commission has an online inventory of its cemeteries.[17][18] Some of these cemeteries are described below:

Solers, France (Total burials: 2,228)
German war cemetery in Zagreb, Croatia
First World War grave at Laventie German Military Cemetery, France
Austria - World War I & II
Belgium - World War I
Belgium - World War I & II
Belgium - World War II
Canada - World War I & II
Croatia - World War II
  • Split German war cemetery (Lovrinac)
  • Zagreb German war cemetery
Egypt - World War II
France (Western Front) - World War I
France (Normandy) - World War II
Southern France - World War II
Greece
Ireland - World War I & World War II
Israel - World War I
Italy - World War II
Luxembourg - World War II
Netherlands - World War II
Russia - World War II
Spain - World War I & World War II
Tunisia - World War II
United Kingdom - World War I & II

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Arbeitsbilanz 2013. In: frieden, April 2014, S. AB 1-AB 12. (PDF; 660 kB)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h German War Graves Commission homepage (in English)
  3. ^ Satzung des Volksbundes Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, § 3 - Aufgaben und Rechtsgrundlagen (Activities and legal basis)
  4. ^ (fr) Paysages et Sites de mémoire de la Grande Guerre: Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge - S.E.S.M.A.
  5. ^ Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. (Hrsg.): Arbeitsbilanz 2010. Sonderdruck 2011, S. 13
  6. ^ a b Arbeitsbilanz 2010. In: Stimme & Weg, 2/2011, p. AB 1-AB 12.
  7. ^ Kriegsgräberstätte Rossoschka on the website of Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. (German)
  8. ^ a b Beate Kalbhenn: Der Name ist entscheidend. Grabnachforschung durch den Volksbund. In: Stimme & Weg x/1997, p. 24-25
  9. ^ Kriegsgefangenenfriedhöfe
  10. ^ Online-Search for War Graves (in German)
  11. ^ clio online, Themenportal 1. Weltkrieg
  12. ^ Website of Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge: German war cemeteries in alphabetical order
  13. ^ Website of Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge: German war cemeteries in geographical order (Land=country, Friedhofsname=name of cemetery)
  14. ^ Österreich betreut Kriegsgräberstätten. In: Stimme & Weg, 2/2011, p. 24.
  15. ^ Ministère de la Défense, SGA Sépultures de guerre (File of french soldiers killed in action)
  16. ^ Website of the Oorlogsgravenstichting in Netherlands
  17. ^ Inventory of German War Grave cemeteries in geographical order (Land=country, Friedhof=name of cemetery)
  18. ^ Inventory of German War Grave cemeteries in alphabetical order
  19. ^ Woodland Cemetery
  20. ^ Kitchener
  21. ^ Website German War Graves Commission: Vermandovillers cemetery in France

External links[edit]