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AliceF

German cemeteries in France

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AliceF
Martin Feledziak

This is the Google Earth view of Thiacourt, I imagine that the old stone eagle, with the shot off beak, has now gone otherwise someone would have posted a picture on present day Panoramio. (The little blue picture icons )

post-103138-0-86234600-1453026083_thumb.

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Martin Feledziak

Here is the American site, just across town, they have an Eagle sundial in the middle.

post-103138-0-18113600-1453028270_thumb.

Ameican Cemetery.kmz

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AliceF
AliceF

Here a travel report from Thiaucourt from 1929, today the first bit (out of 3):

Visit of the cemetery in Thiaucourt

A long-cherished wish came true on the 12th of October 1928. I could visit the war grave of my brother, who was killed in July 1915, in the German war cemetery in Thiaucourt (France, Dep. Meurthe et Moselle). Now that the passport difficulties are virtually eliminated - the visa for two weeks only cost 1.05 Reichsmark - more and more relatives will decide to visit the graves of the fallen in the foreign country.

One reaches Thiaucourt from Metz by train. However, there are only three to four trains in each direction between Metz and Thiaucourt every day. Additionally, you have to change trains in Pagny - the former railway border between Germany (Alsace-Lorraine) and France (French Eastern Railway.). Even if the distance is only 40 km, the travel takes up two to three hours. Nevertheless, a visit can easily be accomplished within one day. In Metz I heard often people speaking German, even though the French language prevails, not at least due to the large presence of the military. Inscriptions seem to be only in French. In the shops and in the hotel your German question is very gladly answered in German. From Pagny on one rarely meets someone who speaks German. The population, however, is consistently courteous and friendly. The trip to Thiaucourt leads through a beautiful landscape.

[There follows a description of the landscape and of the village Thiaucourt, including the search for the German cemetery, which is not signposted]. At my request, the landlady [of a hotel] agreed to contact the cemetery caretaker, who soon appeared, and accompanied me. The German cemetery is located on the road to Regniéville-en-Haye, in a south-easterly direction from Thiaucourt, 1800 m from the centre of the village and likewise from the train station. In half an hour we arrived at the height with the cemetery and which offers a wide view.”

VDK 1929 (2)

Christine

Thiaucourt_Reisebericht_1.docx

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CROONAERT

(but why is St Mihiel mentioned - it is 30 km away?)

Because Thiaucourt was part of the Franco-American St.Mihiel Offensive (The US 'St.Mihiel American Cemetery' is also at Thiaucourt).

Dave

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AliceF

Thank you for the information, Dave. It is easy to mix up different places, sometimes it is the same place name, but different locations. But this means that the picture with the eagle on a German cemetery in Thiaucourt could be on the cemetery we are discussing.

Today part two:

“The grave of my brother was quickly found because the Volksbund had provided me with the row and the number of the grave as well as a photo. So I did not need to make use of the grave list that my friendly guide had. This list contained the names in alphabetical order of the first letter (but only of the first letter not the other ones). It should also be mentioned here that my guide - a one-armed combatant – showed and explained everything with the greatest willingness and helpfulness.

The look of German cemeteries in France was familiar to me through the magazine [this very members’ journal which is the source of all these stories] and slide shows by the Volksbund. The experience in reality is moving and powerful. 12,000 German heroes rest here together. A large number has been brought from other smaller cemeteries to be reburied here- my brother from the cemetery in Vigneulles. The thousands of simple black wooden crosses, which stand aligned in rows reaching to the sky, awaken a deep sense of gratitude and respect for our heroes, who gave their lives for us and our German fatherland.

In general the graves are not decorated. Only here and there a flower or wreath on a grave gives evidence of a visit or remembrance of loved ones. The crosses stand on the bare ground, which is carefully cleaned of weeds - always two crosses together for the two graves that meet at the head ends. Adjacent graves are not specially separated by mounds or deepening. Here and there you can see a flowering bush, cloves or something alike at the edges of the grave rows. The inscriptions in white oil paint are usually still legible, but some are already half obliterated. I was definitely glad that I let install a bronze plaque with the name and so on at the cross of my brother’s grave already years ago with the help of the Volksbund. In this way the grave is marked better and in a worthier form. Shaken one stands before the large common grave of the unknown German soldiers. Here rest many hundreds of our combatants - according to the warden also placed in individual coffins. This common grave is marked by a larger wooden cross. Several large wreaths, which have been laid down on behalf of the Volksbund, show the remembrance by the homeland.”

1929 (2)

A photo from Vigneulles where the brother was first buried can be found here (second row of pictures to the right)

http://grandvigneulles.pagesperso-orange.fr/histoire/periode_moderne/installations.htm

Christine

Thiaucourt_Reisebericht_2.docx

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AliceF

Here a photo from graves in Thiaucourt.
http://www.delcampe.net/page/item/id,270858488,var,Thiaucourt-Regniville-Friedhof-Cimetiere-Carte-photo-allemande-Feldpost,language,E.html

The inscription could be: H. Ahrens, birthday 29.1.91 (?), date of death 14.08.16, IR 368, 2. Komp.

There is a VDK entry for a Heinrich Ahrens:
Cemetery: Thiaucourt-Regniéville
Location: Plot 12 grave 235
Rank: Leutnant
Date of death: 14.08.1916
http://www.volksbund.de/index.php?id=1775&tx_igverlustsuche_pi2[gid]=aad3d1d219d46b9c40103a7c7d0e7108

And G. Jordan IR 3xx, 12 Komp., date of birth 24.9.91 (???), date of death could be 7.8.16

Ther is a VDK entry for a Gustav Jordan:
Cemetery: Thiaucourt-Regniéville
Location: Plot 15 grave 248
Rank: Reservist
Date of death: 07.08.1916
http://www.volksbund.de/index.php?id=1775&tx_igverlustsuche_pi2[gid]=3843154a50845b969642fa93ea0cb6d4

But the tricky thing is that these soldiers seem not to rest next to each other today, but are in different plots. And unfortunately the only source where I might have been able to look up grave references in a German databases - weltkriegsopfer.de - has closed down.

Christine

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Martin Feledziak

Hi Christine,

You have very good eyes to make out the details on those old crosses.

I imagine that they are the right soldiers and could have been moved during the various re-shaping of the site.

Here is a modern day photo link.

Many names can be seen on the mass grave slabs - you have to zoom the picture.

http://www.panoramio.com/photo_explorer#view=photo&position=951&with_photo_id=80470654&order=date_desc&user=204186

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AliceF

Martin, I really like this photo with the sown wildflower strip.
Well, the inscriptions are not easy to read, sometimes it is more guessing; therefore I am not sure if the soldiers I found are the right ones.

Here the third part of the travel report:

„The old German war cemetery is almost enclosed by those large number of crosses [in the new part], which German troops had established in the years 1914-1918. It is surrounded by a low stone wall and decorated with numerous beautiful grave monuments made out of stone or oak wood and planted with many flowers and bushes. Also this part of the cemetery is kept tidy; it resembles the cemeteries at home. As nice as the individual monuments are, the real shocking feeling that grips you so powerful at the sight of thousands of similar simple wooden crosses is lacking here. The sleeping army! – The uniformity of graves is also very impressing in the American cemetery. Here 4,000 Americans rest and the many white marble crosses are arranged in precisely equal distances in radiant rows.

The new part of the [German] cemetery will become a solemnly resting place for our soldiers in coming years, as it is the intention of the Volksbund. Then it will get a proper enclosure – wall or hedge - instead of a bare wire fence, trees will be planted and the rows of graves will be edged by flowers.
The Volksbund deserves for its work for a great cause many thanks and strong support. Everybody, who has visited a war grave in the foreign country, will have this thought in mind.

A.K., Berlin“

VDK 1929 (2)

So the old part of the cemetery is probably in the Northern corner. The old headstones on the photos belong then to this part, which was established during WW1 by German troops. The Volksbund mentions also 1870/71 war graves. A photo of such a headstone is here:

http://www.denkmalprojekt.org/2014/thiaucourt-regnieville_frk.html

But I have difficulties to locate the precise location of many of the old photos.

Here is another one: http://www.delcampe.net/page/item/id,144126615,var,1-CPA--PHOTO--Thiaucourt-Regnieville--Friedhof--Cimetiere--Landsturm-,language,G.html

Christine

Thiaucourt_Reisebericht_3.docx

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Martin Feledziak

I am just going to drop this image on this thread, I do not know where it is but it is an image used as a masthead.

A powerful image, every cross is a personality. A Father, a Brother a Son, a loved one.

It would be what parents saw when seeking out their children.

This is why the men who served and survived, never talked about it.

post-103138-0-13392400-1453321674_thumb.

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AliceF

Indeed, very powerful. Incomprehensible.
Might be Neuville-St Vaast (44,000 soldiers buried here).

Christine

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AliceF

Stories are repeating themselv, but there also always some new aspects. Like in this one here (first part out of two):

My journey to the Somme. Manicourt

Like a holy treasure I kept the image of a simple war grave in my home. For a long time it has been my dearest wish to visit the modest mound, that had been erected over the remains of our dear fallen in Béthencourt. - Should I take the risk and start the journey to France– a lady travelling on her own - and expose myself to all the perils that could be associated with it? Initially I approached the plan cautiously, many thoughts came up, many things have been told. But then I realised that he had to give his young life to fulfil the hardest duty as a soldier: This we did for you. What are you doing for us? And my decision was made. Immediately I began to prepare the journey.

I wrote directly to the mayor of Béthencourt to get information about the location of the grave and other important issues. Soon I got a reply that brought me a daunting disappointment, as I was told that the remains of our fallen soldiers had been transferred to the German war cemetery in Manicourt. It was up to me to explore any further details. Thus I set out with nagging uncertainty to the journey to France, where the fury of war has celebrated its ugliest orgy.[…].

First I travelled to Munich. From Munich I took a direct train to Paris. The border was reached in Kehl, where the French passport and customs control took place. The travel went further via Nancy, Châlons and Epernay along the Marne river. [...] And then one could see at every turn all the harrowing traces of horror from war times - barely a decade ago. Still ruins, partially built over with new bricks, sink deep into memory. Apart from that, it must be noted that the land is cultivated again.”

VDK 1926, 4

Christine

Manicourt_1.docx

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egbert

As usual - thanx for the German original well received in the middle of the Persian Gulf

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roel22

Got mine as well from the Volksbund! :thumbsup:

Roel

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AliceF

I see! Great! Thought that the German versions might not be needed any longer. But then I understood that Egbert did not take his DVD to the Persian Gulf.

Anyway, even if every story and every cemetery is unique, there are certain aspects that are also similar. So I thought it might be time to make a break at some stage.

But I was really fascinated by the texts and also all the comments, questions and pictures in the replies.

Well, I finish the story about Manicourt and I definitely want to have a look at Fricourt, but that will take some time.
Christine

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egbert

You are right, no DVD drive with me.
Your text and those pictures from other contributors here with thousands of German crosses on French soil let me think about the great achievements since then :

What better symbol of friendship - today harbor day in Abu Dhabi, the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, next to us with a French destroyer and a French frigate and our German frigate Augsburg protecting the big ship during its mission in concord

I am eager to,read your part II.

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AliceF

Yes, I agree: it is very, very precious to live in peace, especially with your neighbours.

Here part two:

“The train arrived at the Gare del'Est in Paris in time. First I went to the German Embassy, where there is a special department for war grave issues. My inquiries, whether it is advisable for a woman with poor French skills to visit the Somme by herself, were answered positively. Thus I travelled the next morning from the Gare du Nord to Tergnier (Aisne), where I had to change for Nesle. From Nesle it takes another half an hour to Manicourt.

The cemetery was oppressive and gloomy. A sea of black crosses, about 5000 in number, witness of death’s gruesome harvest. No name can be read on them, only numbers, cold rigid numbers, dead as death itself, which they proclaim. As nice as the location of the cemetery is, so unadorned it is. It would be wrong, not to call it dignified; because it is clean and apparently well taken care of, - but so unspeakably desolate and empty of love , so completely without grass and greenery. [...]

In great distress I was looking for my precious grave. I did not find it, could not find the number, did not find the place where the dearest in the world rested. The friendly cemetery caretaker and the venerable Catholic priest of the village supported me, but unfortunately in vain. The priest telephoned to Péronne regarding the matter, and now we got the news that the soldiers, who had been brought here from Béthencourt, had been buried in a common grave. There I stood in deep mourning at the common grave. Here rested the bones of the precious one, whom I sacrificed for the fatherland while he was still in the power of his finest youth.

Four hours I was staying at the cemetery of Manicourt. It is a delightful thought to have been close to the dead. [...] . I travel back at half past seven in the evening. One star after the other appears at the steel-blue sky which gives the land a mysterious shine. I travel back home to Germany, being deeply grateful and full of new and rich memories.

H.R., Dresden

(The reburials in the cemetery Manicourt are not finished yet. The crosses on the graves will be provided with names. The editorial board)”
VDK 1926, 4

Links of pictures of the cemetery Manicourt how it looks today can be found here: http://mehrow.de/Aktuelles/2012/Soldatenfriedhof_Manicourt.html?Bilder

I have not found any old photos of Manicourt or Béthencourt.

I have two questions:

1. According to the webpage of the VDK there is a German cemetery in Béthencourt-sur-Somme, which was established at 1922. The story above is from 1926. So did they move remains from Béthencourt to Manicourt even if there was a cemetery in Béthencourt? Seems not as this was done before 1922.

2. If you search the VDK webpage for Béthencourt-sur-Somme, you get a geographical location South of Béthancourt-en-Valois. Very strange and the descriptions says 32 kilometers South east of Amiens. But Béthencourt is 32 km South East of Albert. Did the VDK mix up this or do I?

Christine

Manicourt_2.docx

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AliceF

Today a description of Fricourt by the VDK from 1928. Quite similar to the one from Maissemy, but since it is one of the large German cemeteries in the Somme area, I thought it might be of interest for someone.

“German military cemetery Fricourt

The large cemetery Fricourt is located near the village Fricourt in the Dep. Somme about 5 km east of Albert. One can see it already from the station in a north-easterly direction on a hill at the right side of the road Fricourt-Contalmaison.
The rectangular cemetery has become a large concentration cemetery due to numerous reburials from the surroundings. 4698 German soldiers are buried in individual graves. 12000 unidentified German soldiers rest in 4 common graves. [According to information from the VDK on their webpage today are 6500 not identified, the others are identified].

Until about a year ago the cemetery has made a shattering impression on us Germans due its position and size, with its brown-white speckled ground, which is somewhat mitigated in the summer through the surrounding cornfields. However, the cemetery is kept very clean by three guards, the paths are covered with grass and well maintained. From the road lead 5 steps to the still little developed entrance and into the cemetery, which is surrounded by a 1 meter high hedge. At the East side there are 4 large collective graves that are surrounded by an unattractive brick wall. Our design plan suggests a quarry stone masonry.

There are no trees or bushes in the cemetery. The graves with the many black crosses with white inscriptions are entirely bare, emphasising the sad impression. The wooden crosses themselves are almost always in good condition and have mostly double-sided inscriptions.
Pilot Rittmeister Freiherr von Richthofen [in the Imperial German Army Air Service] was buried in this cemetery before he was reburied in the Invalidenfriedhof in Berlin [*]. In his former grave now a soldier from the RIR 215 is buried.
In this cemetery German dead are reburied from the following places [municipalities]:

[The list is posted as attachment].

Notably members of regiments Württemberg are buried here:

[The list is posted as attachment].

Landscape architect Tischler from Munich visited the cemetery last year and made a design plan, which will provide a good spatial effect despite of extreme simplicity in form and design. [in the following the plan for the cemetery are described]"

VDK 1928 (8)

[*]Pilot Rittmeister Freiherr von Richthofen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manfred_von_Richthofen was first buried in Bertangles 1918, then in Fricourt in 1920 and afterwards reburied in Berlin in 1925.

Christine
Photos are from VDK 1927 (9) and mapio net

post-121276-0-05978600-1453916121_thumb.

post-121276-0-80395000-1453916139_thumb.

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Martin Feledziak

Very good posts Christine,

Can I ask did you prepare the map with the blue Pins.?

if so excellent display.

Martin

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AliceF

Thank you Martin!
Well, I did the maps in Google Earth.

In yellow the existing German cemeteries,
in red place names from which remains were removed and reburied in Maissemy
in blue place names from which remains were removed and reburied in Fricourt.

The thing is the map is much better in Google earth, but on the images that I can post not all place names can be read - but I hope they give a rough idea of the area in question.
What would be interesting, but difficult for me to find out, is the exact location of the removed cemeteries.

Christine.

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AliceF

Today a slightly different angle: Philipp Neeser and his brothers

I have read a book with the war memories written by Philipp Neeser (I might write more about this book in the book Forum). Philipp had two brothers who died in spring 1915 and the book contains amongst few others two photos of the graves. The grave from his brother Leonard is published in europeana, which I post here below with the reference.The text next to the photo in europeana is not entirely correct. It is only the brother Leonard, who was buried here – not Friedrich, I will mention him later. In the book I did not find the mentioning that the other soldier was an uncle, but I might have missed that information.

What got my attention is the comment that Phillip made the headstone himself. He was in the same company as his brother and could visit the grave while his unit was stationed in the area.

Leonard was buried in Hannonville-sur- les-Côtes (churchyard?), and reburied after the war in Maizeray (13km away) in an individual grave.
The VDK member journal informed the readers about the reburials 1923 (4) and 1926 (6). It is a one sentence note: “Hannonville (Meuse): All graves have been moved to a concentration cemetery near Maizeray” (VDK 1923, 4).

Christine

Photo sources:
1. Europeana: http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en/contributions/1900
2. Maizeray: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cimetiere_militaire_allemand_Maizeray.jpg
3. a photo from Hannonville on delcampe:
http://www.delcampe.net/items?language=F&searchString=Hannonville+Kirchhof&catLists%5B%5D=-2&searchOptionForm%5BsearchMode%5D=extended&searchOptionForm%5BtermsToExclude%5D=&searchOptionForm%5BsearchTldCountry%5D=net&searchOptionForm%5BsearchInDescription%5D=N&searchOptionForm%5BsearchTranslate%5D=N

post-121276-0-39218300-1454152015_thumb.

post-121276-0-41915700-1454152038_thumb.

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AliceF

The former German cemetery St Mihiel seems to be one of the most photographed German WW1 cemeteries. One of Philipp Neeser’s brother, Friedrich (see post above), who died in the military hospital in St. Mihiel, was buried here. A nice photo collection on St Mihiel German cemetery can be found here: http://ww1relics.com/behindthefront/cemeteries/soldatenfriedhof-st-mihiel

In 1922, 9 the VDK’s member journal one can read:

„Saint Mihiel (Meuse). The soldiers, who were buried in scattered graves, are transferred to the military cemetery. The military cemetery of St. Mihiel is situated at the "Capuchin height" and the road to Metz [200m east of the town]. Towards the hill it is fenced with a barbed wire, on the other sides with a high wall. The main gate is lattice-like composed of wooden poles. The cemetery was established during the war by German troops, it has suffered very little under the fighting. The tombs are built very differently, beautiful stone monuments of all kinds alternate with wooden crosses. The destroyed grave signs have been replaced by the uniform black wooden crosses with white inscription. The graves of the reburied bear the same type of wooden crosses. The inscriptions of the headstones are also very different: painted on wood or stone, partly cut and partly they have been carved into marble or metal plates. Some inscriptions are no longer legible. The cemetery is in good condition and is taken care of by a warder. Various kinds of shrubs, roses and other flowers, which have been planted by German troops, grow on the graves. The plantings on the individual graves are as diverse as the headstones.

The cemetery "de la Tranchée de Varnéville” [situated in the forest of Gobesard ] is surrounded with an iron wire. All graves are uniformly laid out and unplanted. In this cemetery the headstones, which have been created during the war, have been largely destroyed as a result of the shelling."

In 1924 (9) you can read:

“Saint Mihiel (Meuse). The cemetery [at the Capuchin height near the town] has been relocated to Vaux les Palamaix.“

So the first named cemetery near the town – which was called cemetery St. Mihiel in war times and some year after– was removed. The remains of soldiers were transferred to the German cemetery Troyon. Also Friedrich, Phillips brother, was reburied in a single grave in Troyon. The other cemetery "de la Tranchée de Varnéville” was then renamed and is today called German cemetery St Mihiel.

The link at the top includes beautiful pictures from Troyon. Nicely done with the re-photographing of the graves of the reburied.

Christine

On the map the location of the two borthers' a burial and reburial locations.

post-121276-0-83615800-1454528075_thumb.

Saint Mihiel_German.docx

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AliceF

A photo from Servon-Melzicourt from VDK 1930 (3).

The two soldiers buried in the graves in the front are:
Karl Bonegel, Ersatz-Reservist, died 25.9.1915 and
Hermann Andreas, Unteroffizier, died 3.4.1916.

Christine

post-121276-0-07682300-1454803271_thumb.

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