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Over 600 German WWII soldiers buried in Poland

AFP · 22 Oct 2011, 13:32

Published: 22 Oct 2011 13:32 GMT+02:00

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Tomasz Czabanski, of Polish foundation Pomost (Bridge), said the troops were reburied during a religious ceremony at a German military graveyard in Poznan, western Poland.

The troops died in the region in January and February 1945, as Soviet forces rolled back the occupying Germans, and were uncovered at various sites earlier this year.

Some 14,000 German soldiers already lie in Poznan's Milostowo cemetery. Czabanski said 200 dog-tags had been found in the mass graves, enabling researchers to put names to some remains.

"The others will remain unknown," he said.

Funded by Germany, Pomost seeks out battlefield burials across Poland and exhumes the remains for reburial in military graveyards.

The exhumation programme is governed by an accord signed by Warsaw and Berlin in 1991.

Since then, some 150,000 German soldiers have been reburied. There are 13 German military cemeteries in Poland. A total of 31,000 soldiers lie in the largest, at Siemianowice Slaskie in the south.

War graves are discovered regularly in Poland, often by accident during construction work.

Some 468,000 German soldiers died in what is now Poland during World War II, and 400,000 during World War I, according to Germany's memorial foundation.

Not all of them died fighting on Polish territory -- the country's borders were shifted westwards into Germany by the victorious Allies to offset land lost to the Soviets in the east.

Sixty-six years after the end of the war, over a million German soldiers and civilians from the Eastern Front and former German territory are still unaccounted for.

Efforts to resolve their fate were hampered by post-war tensions between West Germany and the Soviet-led communist bloc, of which Poland was a part.

Story continues below…

But the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989-1991 brought a thaw, opening the way for the restoration of German cemeteries and a renewed drive to locate long-lost battlefield burials.

Pomost and similar organisations have put aside past hatreds.

Poles have never forgotten the brutality of World War II. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded and carved up Poland in 1939. On the German side of the line, around six million people were killed, half of them Polish Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

In 1941, Germany turned on its erstwhile ally, and fought its way deep into the Soviet Union. But by mid-1944, Soviet forces pushed the Nazis back into Poland driving towards Berlin, whose defenders surrendered in May 1945.

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Your comments about this article

15:03 October 22, 2011 by wenddiver
I am surprised the Poles didn't insist all the German War dead be reburried in Germany.
15:25 October 22, 2011 by jstar100
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
16:08 October 22, 2011 by wenddiver
@Jstar100- A Country has a right to demand more from an Army than that they be brave. These men may have fought for their Country, but I doubt if their vision of Germany is one many thinking people would embrace today. They and other complacent German patriot are directly responsible for the horrors that befell Germany under the Nazis and later Communists.

They defended the Country, but the Country only needed defending, because of their violent actions.
17:56 October 22, 2011 by Shiny Flu

My wife's Opa served on the Eastern front. He's never been able to visit his hometown since he's now too old and previously there was something called the wall stopping him. He along with his family were chased out of what is now Poland.

He had the choice of either being shot on the spot or the chance of surviving if he followed orders - it's called conscription. He spent his late teens outside of Leningrad and somehow managed to survive through the first winter of Barbarosa - where the Nazi elite in Germany were kept warm with fur coats stolen from the Jews and he and his fellow soldiers only had their summer uniforms to keep them warm. He marched for days on end in freezing snow storms and through hot dry summers.

He was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a child. He was forced to take a copy of Mein Kampf when he got married - and promptly threw it in the fire when they got home. He was forced at gun point to join the Wehrmacht. He did not choose to leave his home town of Glogau. He did not choose to loose 7 notches of his army-issued belt (it's in the cellar and my hands would have wrapped around his waist). He was not a Nazi.

It's something that you can't judge. He is not proud of what he did, neither are we as a family. Heck, I'm of Chinese origin and grew up during a time when being anti-asian was the thing to do in Australia. It's not so black and white.

I'd suggest any one today would be hard pressed to make the choice between choosing a chance at survival or choosing certain torture and death.
18:10 October 22, 2011 by Bigfoot76
Being in the Army during the war did not mean you were a Nazi. Just as today, being in the Army does not make you a part of the CDU. However if you are in the Army you follow orders, if you do not there are consequences. The ONLY difference now is that the consequences are not death.
04:08 October 23, 2011 by jstar100
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
11:56 October 23, 2011 by Englishted

For exactly how many years was this land German? ,

When you think German didn't come together as a country until 1870 ,and then lost much of this land after the first world war only to have it taken back by Hitler

and lost again in 1945 .

You are correct that Poland was expanded Westwards too far under Soviet orders but the Western allies were in no mood to stop the red army 's advance even if they could.
18:47 October 24, 2011 by LecteurX
@ jstar100 - what are you on exactly? constantly praising the nazis as you are, there's something wrong with you. "Danzig is deutsch"? well, sorry but it isn't anymore. Sure, Stalin took a lot of German land in 1945, arguably too much of it, taking advantage of a time when nobody could really stand up for Germany and the Germans (and with reason...), but then? Gdansk was not always German before that. It became culturally German after centuries of Hanseatic trade and rule by a German-speaking elite. The city became officially German in the very last years of the 18th century, after the Kingdom of Prussia annexed it; before that, it was a part of the Kingdom of Poland. So, why should 150 years of "Germanness" of Danzig should it make it more German than Polish? It was Polish for 1,000 years before that. Now it's lost for Germany. If Hitler had not been such a bully, he could have indeed righted the wrongs of Versailles, reunited Germany and Austria, got the Sudetenland into the Reich... all would have been well (well, mostly, of course, for the Jews, not so much, but hey, methinks you couldn't care less). But no, he was a raving lunatic with megalomaniac plans of worldwide domination, and the Germans didn't have the nerves to put an end to this folly, the rest of the world had to do it for them... this came with a price, and that's the end of it. We're not going to fight new wars to "re-take" "Danzig" (now it's called Gdansk) and Pomerania and Königsberg and stuff. Danzig WAS German, now it's not anymore, so stop looking at the past and move on from your maps of Europe from 1914 (or maybe you prefer the 1942 map??).

Besides, there were lots of Poles living in Pomerania and in Silesia up to 1937, they had been subjected to forced Germanization by the Prussian state in the late 19th century to wipe out their culture, funny that you forget this part. This is how "Deutsch" all these lands were. Heck, half the cities in East Germany were founded by Slavic or Polish tribes and became German over the centuries. Even Rostock or Köpenick, now a borough of Berlin. So, just because a place was German at one point of time doesn't mean it has to remain German until the end of times. Especially not when these places are specifically situated beyond a border that Germany now recognizes.

The world has moved on, and losers like you are just pathetic and irrelevant clowns who will soon fade into oblivion as they deserve to.
11:12 October 25, 2011 by Harry Grouse
I can not understand that the allies supported the russians and consider all the allies to have commited war crimes especially the U.S.A for dropping nucclear weapons on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But the German people still have to pay war reparations. Time for someone else to pay!
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