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Thread: Concentration of Allied graves in the former DDR

  1. #1
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    Default Concentration of Allied graves in the former DDR

    Gentlemen,

    Graves of Allied WW2 aviators, who fell or washed ashore in occupied territory and Germany, were recorded after the liberation of an area, by the Allied Grave Registration Units (GRU). Many graves were concentrated in dedicated war cemeteries. This was done by Grave Concentration Units (GCU). The graves of the unknowns were investigated by the Missing Research & Enquiry Service (MR&ES), leading to identifications, if at all possible. This was done in either the concentration cemeteries, or in the places of initial burial.

    Many graves were left in the places of initial burial. There does not seem to be a clear cut guiding line for decisions about grave relocations. It is said that graves were left in local care, if locals expressed a wish to that effect, and promised to look after the graves. Fact is that I have not seen a single grave of an Allied aviator, buried in some tiny village somewhere, that shows signs of neglect.

    One clear rule has been followed. Allied war graves found in the soil of Germany would all be relocated to about a dozen large concentration cemeteries. All this required an immense effort, that must have met with very many difficulties, but not with opposition. There is one exception. Those who fell and were buried in what would later become the DDR, Eastern Germany, were buried in soil under control of the Sovjets, who had become the new enemy when WW2 had ended. In correspondence, MR&ES staff express their concern with the lack of cooperation experienced from the Sovjet authorities. The GCU & MR&ES were prohibited from doing their job behind the Iron Curtain.

    This raised the suspicion that Allied war graves, especially of unknowns, may still be scattered over the area of the former DDR. To substantiate or falsify this hypothesis, two experiments were done. One involved raising the GRU, GCU & MR&ES reports of a dozen Allied aviators buried as unknowns in Berlin Charlottenburg War Cemetery. All bodies came from villages in the former DDR. After that, I visited a dozen randomly selected cemeteries in former DDR villages. No graves were seen that could possibly indicate the burial of an Allied war casualty. Both samples taken were admittantly quite small, but it seems that the Sovjets have in fact cooperated fully, if reluctantly at first, with this grave concentration process.

    I would be interested to hear from any-one who can shoot holes in these notions. A more specific shape of the same question would be: can any-one identify places where Allied WW2 casualties are buried in the soil of the former DDR, other than Berlin Charlottenburg and Gardelegen? The last is the cemetery for the 1.016 Allied casualties of the Gardelegen massacre, and most of these remained unknown. I cannot prove it, but consider it possible that these casualties may have included one or a few Allied aviators taken POW, and added to the prisoner transports as a matter of convenience to their captors.

    Rob

  2. #2
    Bart FM Droog

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    Hello Rob,

    What's the official name of 'Berlin Charlottenburg War Cemetery'? On the CWGC-site I can only locate these cemeteries in Berlin:

    Berlin South-Western Cemetery (1176 WW I)
    Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery (3594 WW II), in the district of Charlottenburg
    Hasenheide Garrison Cemetery (1 WW I)
    Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery (206 WW I)

    And what's the official name of the Gardelegen cemetery?

    See http://www.volkskrantblog.nl/bericht/169370 for a complete listing of all CWGC cemeteries in Germany.

    Then: as parts of Poland were once part of Germany i wonder if you have looked there too?

    Regards,

    Bart

  3. #3
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    Hi Bart,

    The official name of Berlin Charlottenburg is found on the CWGC website. "Berlin (Charlottenburg) 1939-1945 War Cemetery" is on the south side of the Heerstrasse, a major road that leads from the west to the centre. I consider the name declared by the CWGC to be the official one, as the cemetery is in the care of the CWGC. In fact, this cemetery, as all other concentration cemeteries, is legally part of the United Kingdom.

    I'm aware of all CWGC cemeteries in all countries, as the CWGC has made access to such data easy. I'm looking for only WW2 graves, and then only of aviators. In Germany, all RAF WW2 casualties are buried in the following concentration cemeteries, mentioned roughly North to South: Kiel, Hamburg Ohlsdorf, Berlin Charlottenburg, Retzow, Sage, Becklingen, Hannover, Münster, Reichswald, Rheinberg, and Dürnbach. One unidentified Allied WW2 casualty remained buried in Wittenburg, and the CWGC mentions that one identified casualty would be buried in Niederkruchten, which is just across the border in the Venlo area. I could not find that last grave, and believe that the CWGC administration may have missed a relocation of this grave.

    Gardelegen is not in the care of the CWGC. The cemetery was made as an initiative of the Americans, who liberated the area. The memorial & cemetery are in the care of the Germans: Stadt Gardelegen, Altmarkkreis Salzwedel & Bundesland Sachsen-Anhalt. Texts on the crosses are in German. The site is called "Mahn und Gedenkstätte Gardelegen". The cemetery is known as "Gardelegen Gräberfeld" or "Gardelegen Militär-Friedhof". The last name is interesting, as - most of the - casualties were civilian POW's. The name comes from the American decision that the Gardelegen casualties would be treated quite the same as military casualties.

    Two Dutchmen are believed to be buried here, as unknowns, out of the only 168 from 1.016 casualties who could be identified to their country of origin. The site is in the eastern outskirts of Gardelegen, on the Heideweg.

    Other non-CWGC sites of burial of Allied aviators in Germany would be the former camps, where POW's were killed and "cremated". There are no graves there, that one can point to.

    The number of RAF aviators lost over Poland, or in POW camps in Poland, is limited. As far as I know, these 238 graves were concentrated in Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery. But you are right, the question I raised for the DDR applies to Poland too.

    In addition to the DDR/Poland accessibility issue to parties such as the GCU's and the MR&ES, the US JPAC organisation reported in 2006 to have been denied access to the former DDR area in earlier years. This was declared after a US fighter & pilot were found & salvaged by JPAC from the former DDR area. This would indicate that the Sovjets did allow the grave services to concentrate known graves, but did not allow active searches for lost aircraft and graves.

    Fact is that many of the casualties of people movements by the Germans in the final stage of the war have no known graves. Amongst these are more than a few Allied aviators. They disappeared in "Nacht und Nebel". I would like to know if, in the area that was formerly called the DDR, there has been any effort, systematic or otherwise, to trace the field graves of these casualties.

    Rob

  4. #4
    Eddie Fell

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    Hi Rob

    Berlin Charlottenburg Cemetery (1939-45 Cemetery, Bart) itself was never in the DDR. It was firmly in the British Sector of Berlin during the four power occupation of the City. The bodies may have fallen on German soil but were buried in British soil

    Cheers

    Eddie

  5. #5
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    Thanks, Eddie. True, but that was not the point. The item is about finding and relocating the graves from areas kept closed to the Allied grave services.

    Rob

  6. #6
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    Most of the allied casualties in the Berlin area were brought to the Berlin Olympic Stadium for identification. Then burial took place at the "Heeresstandort-Friedhof" Dalgow-Döberitz. Postwar this area became a Russian tank exercise site; many graves damaged/lost. From Döberitz (Russion Zone) reburials were carried out to the British War Cem., Heerstrasse, Berlin-Spandau. We succeeded in finding a contact person of the postwar Dalgow-Düberitz community and 1998 Mr Jan Hey obtained 3 pages with names of allied servicemen initially buried in that German military cemetery; he worked out the list and sent me a copy of the results.
    Regards,
    Henk.

  7. #7
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    Thanks, Henk. This really adds to the history of the matter, adding post war chaos to the war chaos of the area. This would mean that some of the Allied airmen lost in that area, whose bodies were found, were lost again in the post war period. I would be interested to hear more about the Dalgow-Döberitz Friedhof area in post war years.

    Rob

  8. #8
    Bart FM Droog

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    Hello Rob,

    These are all the CWGC cemeteries with WW II casualties in Poland:

    KRAKOW RAKOWICKI CEMETERY (WW II - 483 Commonwealth casualties; airmen and POW's)
    MALBORK COMMONWEALTH WAR CEMETERY contains 232 Second World War burials. There are also 13 First World War burials which were moved from Gdansk (Danzig) Garrison Cemetery in 1960.
    POZNAN OLD GARRISON CEMETERY (you know of this one)

    Not in Germany (or Poland), but in Romania - and thus maybe of interest in your quest:

    BUCHAREST WAR CEMETERY (WW II, airmen)

    Russian Federation
    MURMANSK RUSSIAN CEMETERY EXTENSION (WW II)
    SEVEROMORSK (VAENGA) CEMETERY (WW II - 6 airmen)

    Ukraine
    ODESSA 2nd CHRISTIAN CEMETERY (1 WWII)

    Regards,

    Bart
    Last edited by Bart FM Droog; 7th July 2008 at 18:14.

  9. #9
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    Rob

    have you read Missing Believed Killed: Casualty Policy and the Missing Research and Enquiry Service by Stuart Hadaway (mentioned by Chris in the Books section)?

    I have just acquired the book and see that an entire chapter is dedicated to Germany and Poland. I haven't got that far but it maybe worth getting a copy as the book seems to cover many of the issues that you are researching

    A

  10. #10
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    Thanks, Bart, good job. I'm after a few Dutch RAF aviators who went MIA over Germany. If buried anywhere, then it is unlikely in the cemeteries in the East that you mentioned. But no doubt this additional knowledge you provided shall prove to be valuable at a later point in time.

    Rob

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