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When the battlefields were being searched for the bodies of the missing after the war, what was the procedure when a German body was discovered?

Martin

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7 minutes ago, tootrock said:

When the battlefields were being searched for the bodies of the missing after the war, what was the procedure when a German body was discovered?

Martin

 

Hello,

 

As the allied war graves commissions were also responsible for the German war graves (according to the Versailles Treaty), they had to do the necessary. Unfortunately, this usually meant burying them as unknowns. There were some large concentration cemeteries like Broodseinde Extension, where mainly the IWGC had gathered some 5,000 Germans, most of which where "an unknown German soldier". During the exhumations in the 1950s, some could be identified still.

 

Jan

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   This has come up several times on GWF- not least by Your Humble.  But never any real solid answer.  There are, of course, many,many soldier accounts of burials and the ground being littered with both British and German dead. To me, it all boils down to a mix of common humanity and hard boiled practicality.  I believe the Germans were prohibited for some time from searching, though when they were formally allowed to do so will be known on GWF.  In practicality, there had to be some working arrangement for 2 very obvious reasons:

 

1) The grid searches in the first few years after the end of the war must have turned up thousands of German bodies. No point ignoring them if another grid search came along later and discovered the same body over again.  The attitude (hostile) of the French may mean there is little official paperwork on this. Yes, the concentration cemeteries acted as a dump, with a perhaps disproportionate number of unidentifieds due to want of care.  But the mutual sharing of search results was to everyone's benefit-not least in the saving of IWGC effort-in the few years after Versailles.

 

2) A lot of clearance work was done by German POWs anyway until they were  repatriated.

 

     Everything to me smells of local arrangements but I have yet to find a reliable first-hand account of what they were. 

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11 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

   This has come up several times on GWF- not least by Your Humble.  But never any real solid answer.  There are, of course, many,many soldier accounts of burials and the ground being littered with both British and German dead. To me, it all boils down to a mix of common humanity and hard boiled practicality.  I believe the Germans were prohibited for some time from searching, though when they were formally allowed to do so will be known on GWF.  In practicality, there had to be some working arrangement for 2 very obvious reasons:

 

1) The grid searches in the first few years after the end of the war must have turned up thousands of German bodies. No point ignoring them if another grid search came along later and discovered the same body over again.  The attitude (hostile) of the French may mean there is little official paperwork on this. Yes, the concentration cemeteries acted as a dump, with a perhaps disproportionate number of unidentifieds due to want of care.  But the mutual sharing of search results was to everyone's benefit-not least in the saving of IWGC effort-in the few years after Versailles.

 

2) A lot of clearance work was done by German POWs anyway until they were  repatriated.

 

     Everything to me smells of local arrangements but I have yet to find a reliable first-hand account of what they were. 

 

The Germans were NOT allowed to search for their dead. It was "allied and associated war graves commissions". I have been researching German militayr cemeteries in France and Belgium for some 25 years now and have published several books and articles on the matter.

 

1.) These were buried in German concentration cemeteries that were laid out and maintained by the Allies. The Belgian Service des Sépultures Militaires and the IWGC in Belgium and the French State in France (which is why one often sees French and German concentration cemeteries next to each other, they were created by the same French officials).

 

2.) The German POWs that were working on them were working for the Allies (either clearing battlefield or directly for some GRU etc).

 

In Belgium, the situation of the German war graves was this bad that in 1925 the Belgian government agreed to a secret agreement after which the German state took over the maintenance of the German graves, but the actual work of exhuming etc was still done by the Belgian Service des Sépultures Militaires.

 

GRAVES.

ARTICLE 225.

The Allied and Associated Governments and the German Government will cause to be respected and maintained the graves of the soldiers and sailors buried in their respective territories.

They agree to recognise any Commission appointed by an Allied or Associated Government for the purpose of identifying, registering, caring for or erecting suitable memorials over the said graves and to facilitate the discharge of its duties.

Furthermore they agree to afford, so far as the provisions of their laws and the requirements of public health allow, every facility for giving effect to requests that the bodies of their soldiers and sailors may be transferred to their own country.

ARTICLE 226.

The graves of prisoners of war and interned civilians who are nationals of the different belligerent States and have died in captivity shall be properly maintained in accordance with Article 225 of the present Treaty.

The Allied and Associated Governments on the one part and the German Government on the other part reciprocally undertake also to furnish to each other:

(1) A complete list of those who have died, together with all information useful for identification;

(2) All information as to the number and position of the graves of all those who have been buried without identification.

 

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7 hours ago, AOK4 said:

 

Les Allemands n'ont PAS été autorisés à rechercher leurs morts. Il s'agissait de "commissions alliées et associées sur les tombes de guerre". Je fais des recherches sur les cimetières militaires allemands en France et en Belgique depuis maintenant 25 ans et j'ai publié plusieurs livres et articles sur le sujet.

 

1.) Ceux-ci ont été enterrés dans des cimetières de concentration allemands qui ont été aménagés et entretenus par les Alliés. Le Service belge des Sépultures Militaires et l' IWGC en Belgique et l'Etat français en France (c'est pourquoi on voit souvent des cimetières de concentration français et allemands côte à côte, ils ont été créés par les mêmes fonctionnaires français).

 

2.) Les prisonniers de guerre allemands qui y travaillaient travaillaient pour les Alliés (soit pour nettoyer le champ de bataille, soit directement pour certains GRU, etc.).

 

En Belgique, la situation des tombes de guerre allemandes était si mauvaise qu'en 1925, le gouvernement belge a accepté un accord secret après lequel l'État allemand a pris en charge l'entretien des tombes allemandes, mais le travail réel d'exhumation, etc. Service belge des Sépultures Militaires.

 

GRAVES.

ARTICLE 225.

Les gouvernements alliés et associés et le gouvernement allemand feront respecter et entretenir les tombes des soldats et marins enterrés sur leurs territoires respectifs.

Ils conviennent de reconnaître toute commission nommée par un gouvernement allié ou associé aux fins d'identifier, d'enregistrer, de prendre soin ou d'ériger des monuments commémoratifs appropriés sur lesdites tombes et de faciliter l'accomplissement de ses fonctions.

En outre, ils acceptent de donner, dans la mesure où les dispositions de leurs lois et les exigences de la santé publique le permettent, toutes facilités pour donner suite aux demandes de transfert des corps de leurs soldats et marins dans leur propre pays.

ARTICLE 226.

Les tombes des prisonniers de guerre et des civils internés ressortissants des différents Etats belligérants et morts en captivité seront convenablement entretenues conformément à l'article 225 du présent Traité.

Les Gouvernements alliés et associés d'une part et le Gouvernement allemand d'autre part s'engagent réciproquement à se fournir également:

(1) Une liste complète des personnes décédées, ainsi que toutes les informations utiles à l'identification;

(2) Toutes les informations sur le nombre et la position des tombes de tous ceux qui ont été enterrés sans identification.

 

Good evening,

 

Thank you for these explanations.
is it; possible to know the title of the book you wrote about?


Thank you in advance.

 

Michel

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall

An anecdotal note. Many years ago an ex IWGC / CWGC employee who had lived on the Somme all his life told me that as a child in the 1920's it was common knowledge that many of the German remains discovered during reclamation / reconstructive / farming works were collected in quarries and periodically burned. 

 

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” It was the 1920's - towns and villages on the Somme (and elsewhere) were erecting their war memorials and (yet again) mourning their people who had died at the hands of the Germans. Anecdotal - but doesn't qualify for dismissal, I'd suggest.

Tom

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I always understood that locals were paid for the bodies of any soldiers found after the war and although they were paid for German bodies it was a lot less than they got for those of Allied soldiers. Typically I cannot find the reference for that now so may be wrong.

 

Neil

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10 hours ago, Neil Mackenzie said:

I always understood that locals were paid for the bodies of any soldiers found after the war and although they were paid for German bodies it was a lot less than they got for those of Allied soldiers. Typically I cannot find the reference for that now so may be wrong.

 

Neil

 

    Chris Baker has the main details on LLT.  Battlefield clearance and burial – The Long, Long Trail  

 

 

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10 hours ago, Neil Mackenzie said:

I always understood that locals were paid for the bodies of any soldiers found after the war and although they were paid for German bodies it was a lot less than they got for those of Allied soldiers. Typically I cannot find the reference for that now so may be wrong.

 

Neil

 

Neil,

 

I have heard locally and read in local histories that nothing was paid for German (and French) bodies. In the book "Halfweg Menin Road en Ypernstrasse. Gheluvelt 1914-1918" (written by myself and several co-authors) we write that for declaring a British body, one received 10 francs, nothing for a French or German body. Understandably, quite a few of the latter "changed nationality"' by taking away German or French pieces of equipment and adding some British things (buttons, rifles etc).

 

Jan

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4 hours ago, battle of loos said:

good morning,

 

thank's a lot for the link.

 

regards

 

michel

 

 

      The thanks are due only to Chris Baker for providing such an excellent site- it has saved almost everyone doing Great War history much anguish- he has kept many of us on the duckboards of  sane research rather than drowning in the shell-holes of confusion.:wub:

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5 hours ago, AOK4 said:

 

Neil,

 

I have heard locally and read in local histories that nothing was paid for German (and French) bodies. In the book "Halfweg Menin Road en Ypernstrasse. Gheluvelt 1914-1918" (written by myself and several co-authors) we write that for declaring a British body, one received 10 francs, nothing for a French or German body. Understandably, quite a few of the latter "changed nationality"' by taking away German or French pieces of equipment and adding some British things (buttons, rifles etc).

 

Jan

 

Jan,

 

Is there an English translation of your book?

 

Simon

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1 hour ago, Simon Birch said:

 

Jan,

 

Is there an English translation of your book?

 

Simon

 

Simon, there isn't, unfortunately.

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall
11 hours ago, AOK4 said:

... Understandably, quite a few of the latter "changed nationality"' by taking away German or French pieces of equipment and adding some British things (buttons, rifles etc).

 

There was much worse than that going on - read the papers on the Hooge Crater Cemetery Court of Enquiry in the CWGC archives. I believe that the various authorities made strenuous efforts to keep the lid on a much more wide-ranging can of worms - especially, but not exclusively, with regards to exhumations and reburials.

Tom

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This is a very similar discussion from 2014 . It all discussed the historic facts that come up now in this 20120 thread, but originating from another hypothesis:  

 

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deutscherinfanteriest

Hello all. Interesting that discussion. I have a question: I read in August-September 1914 German Army in Franc and Belgium (so from battle of Liége to Marne), they burned in big pyres own dead, often to hidden their heavy casualties. On le miroir newspaper in 1914, they talk about that with a photo too. Real or fake? Or Germans did so for hygienic purposes?

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On 17/11/2020 at 09:27, AOK4 said:

 

Neil,

 

I have heard locally and read in local histories that nothing was paid for German (and French) bodies. In the book "Halfweg Menin Road en Ypernstrasse. Gheluvelt 1914-1918" (written by myself and several co-authors) we write that for declaring a British body, one received 10 francs, nothing for a French or German body. Understandably, quite a few of the latter "changed nationality"' by taking away German or French pieces of equipment and adding some British things (buttons, rifles etc).

 

Jan

So, relating to another thread on GWF, our unknown warrior could be German and in line for the VC.

 

Edwin

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1 hour ago, deutscherinfanteriest said:

Hello all. Interesting that discussion. I have a question: I read in August-September 1914 German Army in Franc and Belgium (so from battle of Liége to Marne), they burned in big pyres own dead, often to hidden their heavy casualties. On le miroir newspaper in 1914, they talk about that with a photo too. Real or fake? Or Germans did so for hygienic purposes?

 

Fake, completely. I have a chapter on this in my planned books. I believe we have discussed this topic in this forum as well in the past.

 

Jan

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9 minutes ago, AOK4 said:

 

Fake, completely. I have a chapter on this in my planned books. I believe we have discussed this topic in this forum as well in the past.

 

Jan

 

     One has only to visit, as I have with French family members, the various mounds in the rolling landscape of Champagne that the notion is false-the little notices saying that there so many thousand Germans buried in a mass grave is sobering enough but these engineered myths of corpse factories,etc still come out.  Reminds me....just how long has the "Daily Mail" been running?

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Maybe the cholera epidemic in Austria-Hungary in 1914 lay at the beginning of this hoax, which then went on to lead a completely different life?

 

The Provinciale Noordbrabantsche en 's Hertogenbossche courant  (try to pronounce thát after a few pints, or befóre a few for that matter...  :D) reports on 3rd november 1914:

 

"The epidemic is worst in Galicia. Almost 100 soldiers die there every day. Their corpses are burned immediately."

 

Some newspaper-intern may have thought "Austria= they speak German. German? Must be the Germans burning corpses".

Headline next day: "German troops burn corpses of their fallen by the thousands!"

 

cholera.jpg.e5a9843fe91016d8177f328120ad9a1f.jpg

 

 

Edited by JWK
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12 hours ago, deutscherinfanteriest said:

I read in August-September 1914 German Army in Franc and Belgium (so from battle of Liége to Marne), they burned in big pyres own dead, often to hidden their heavy casualties. On le miroir newspaper in 1914, they talk about that with a photo too. Real or fake? Or Germans did so for hygienic purposes?

 

11 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

myths of corpse factories,etc still come out.

I'm not sure the post/question was about "Corpse Factories" - But plenty have de-bunked that 'Corpse Factories" idea.

As an example The German Corpse Factory: A Study in First World War Propaganda (Wolverhampton Military Series) Paperback – 15 July 2019 by Stephen Badsey is one such treatise.

 

Though I think from reading elsewhere, here on GWF I believe, that there have been suggestions that corpses, possibly of both sides, may have been burnt in 'No man's land' at Gallipoli for the reason of hygiene -  I can't comment, either way, on the veracity of such a possibility in that theatre.

 

'tootrock' and 'deutscherinfanteriest' - I think you could both valuably search GWF for previous threads.

:-) M

Edited by Matlock1418
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