La Cambe German war cemetery

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La Cambe German war cemetery
German War Graves Commission
(Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge)
German military cemetery Normandy 1.jpg
The German military cemetery in La Cambe
Used for those deceased 1944
Established 1944 (Finished 1961)
Location 49°20′31″N 01°01′35″W / 49.34194°N 1.02639°W / 49.34194; -1.02639Coordinates: 49°20′31″N 01°01′35″W / 49.34194°N 1.02639°W / 49.34194; -1.02639
near Bayeux, Calvados, France
Total burials 21,222
Unknown
burials
207
Burials by nation
Burials by war
Statistics source: World War II Battlefields

La Cambe is a military war grave cemetery, located close to Bayeux, France. Presently containing in excess of 21,000 German military personnel of World War II, it is maintained and managed by the German War Graves Commission.

History[edit]

La Cambe was originally the site of a battlefield cemetery, established by the United States Army Graves Registration Service during the war, where American and German soldiers, sailors and airmen were buried in two adjacent fields.

After the war had ended on the continent and paralleling the work undertaken to repair all the devastation that the war had caused, work began on exhuming the American remains and transferring them in accordance with the wishes of their families. Beginning in 1945, the Americans transferred two-thirds of their fallen from this site back to the United States while the remainder were reinterred at the new permanent American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, which overlooks the Omaha Beach landing site.

Because of the pace of the war, the German war dead in Normandy were scattered over a wide area, many of them buried in isolated field graves - or small battlefield cemeteries. In the years following the war, the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) sought to establish six main German cemeteries in the Normandy area.

Formation[edit]

The German military cemetery in La Cambe

La Cambe, as an existing site of German war dead that was already informally cared for by the German War Graves Commission, was a natural choice for one of the six formal sites. After the signing in 1954 of the Franco-German Treaty on War Graves, La Cambe was formally cared for, allowing the remains of 12,000 German soldiers to be moved in from 1,400 locations in the French departments of Calvados and the Orne.

La Cambe was officially inaugurated as a German War Cemetery in September 1961. Since that date, the remains of more than 700 soldiers have been found on battlefields across Normandy, and reinterred at La Cambe.

Layout and landscaping of the site began immediately after formal handover, which today has created at its centre a large tumulus, flanked by two statues and topped by a large dark cross in basalt lava, which marks the resting place for 207 unknown and 89 identified German soldiers, interred together in a mass grave.[1] The tumulus is surrounded by 49 rectangular grave fields with up to 400 graves each. On the large green grass area the graves are identified by flat grave markers.[2]

The sign in front of the cemetery reads as follows:

The German Cemetery at La Cambe: In the Same Soil of France

Until 1947, this was an American cemetery. The remains were exhumed and shipped to the United States. It has been German since 1948, and contains over 21,000 graves. With its melancholy rigour, it is a graveyard for soldiers not all of whom had chosen either the cause or the fight. They too have found rest in our soil of France.

Grave of Michael Wittmann with the crew of Tiger 007, La Cambe Cemetery, France.

Personal fates[edit]

The majority of the German war dead buried at La Cambe fell between June 6 and August 20, 1944 and their ages range from 16 to 72. They died during the Allied landings and the ensuing combat. Casualties of the war in Normandy are still being found after some 70 years, although formal burial ceremonies are less frequent these days. In total, as of July 2008, there are the remains of 21,222 German soldiers, sailors and airmen buried at La Cambe. The buried include:

  • SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann: the most senior officer at the massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June 1944. Ordered to be court martialled, he was killed in battle in Normandy on 29 June.[3]
  • SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann: Tiger tank ace, who along with his tank crew was informally buried in an unmarked site following their deaths on 8 August 1944. Rediscovered in 1983, the crew was re-interred at La Cambe.[4]

Information Center[edit]

Since the mid-1990s, there has been an Information Center on the site to the memory of the losses of Operation Overlord, when in summer 1944 more than 100,000 people died: American, British, German, French, Canadian, Poles and members of other nations. Also at least 14,000 French civilians died. Human fates and reconciliation are special themes. Visitors can also view a permanent exhibition about the German War Graves Commission and have access to a database to locate the graves of dead German military. An adjoint peace-garden with 1,200 maple-trees from gifts symbolizes that peace ought to grow.[5]

Volunteer Maintenance[edit]

Unlike the American and Commonwealth War Graves Commissions, the German Commission is entirely voluntary and relies on gifts and collections to further its work. During the summer months one may see international school children tending the graves. They volunteer to work with the Volksbund during their school holidays and visit American and German war cemeteries, memorials, sites of the invasion and take part in the memorial ceremony with veterans and the mayor of La Cambe.[6]

In memory[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ (de)Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. (Hrsg.): Normandie. Deutsche Kriegsgräberstätten. Kassel. p. 10 (Brochure with short comments on Normandie's war cemeteries)
  2. ^ Übersichtsplan der Deutschen Kriegsgräberstätte La Cambe
  3. ^ "SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Otto Diekmann". ww2gravestone.com. Retrieved 18 September 1944. 
  4. ^ Lefevre, Eric; R. Cooke (translator) (1983). Panzers in Normandy: Then and Now. After the Battle. ISBN 0-900913-29-0. 
  5. ^ (de)Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. (Hrsg.): Normandie. Deutsche Kriegsgräberstätten. Kassel. p. 10-11. (Brochure with short comments on Normandie's war cemeteries)
  6. ^ Sophia Kühn, Pauline Schurund, Lisa Thuriam: Eine wundervolle Erfahrung (Tales of some workcamp participants)

External links[edit]