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Remembered Today:

"War graves are the great communications for peace"


Guest mruk
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"War graves are the great communications for peace"

It depends upon one's view, of course, but was Albert Schweitzer overly optimistic? I would argue that he was.

This may be seen in a number of ways: not least in the arguments which surround the issues of access and use of burial space, the legal rights and ownership of the body, and how this has been challenged and contested at both an international and internal-domestic level. The example of Germany, and the claims which have been made by the German government for the repatriation of its dead from two world wars, is a case in point, and has still not been resolved. Indeed, it is only in the recent past, and after lengthy negotiations with both Russia and France, that the 'Kriegsgrabfursorge' has been allowed to gather and collect its dead, and tend the graves and cemeteries of those buried on foreign soil. This has resulted, at least in the case of Russia, in a number of new 'Supercemeteries' being erected to house the German dead. Again, not without conflict or controversy [which one can perfectly understand given the history between the two countries].

It is my contention, then, that rather than a period of peace and reconciliation, this was a period fraught with enmity and bitterness, in which difference and division still seems apparent almost a century later--despite any attempt and gesture towards peace and reconciliation, and the spirit of cooperation between once-warring nations.

What do other Pals think?

Best Wishes,

Dave

PS: Apologies to Terry if you think I've taken the quote out of context, but thanks for the inspiration.

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I have got to disagree. Those endless names on the Thiepval or Menin Gate memorials, the crosses at Notre Dame de Lorette or the sombre stones at Langemark all seem to be pretty good arguments for peace. The dead are young and frequently represent men who were to be badly needed by those countries after the wars were over. Their youth is incinerated by the fire of war. The thoughts of wasted potential are what strike me when I visit these places.

However military cemetaries also connote honour upon those who have died, that they are worthy to lie in the soil of the country in which they have fallen. The British cemetaries in Northern France are a case in point, the stone proclaims that their 'Name Liveth For Evermore' and frequently there is a plaque indicating that the soil has been voluntarily given to that country by the French (or Belgium/Dutch/Greek etc) government (Langemark and other German cemetaries are exceptions because they feel like they are born out of the neccesity to bury the dead, although I have heard that the British demanded that the dead Germans receive an honourable burial place). It might just be that many in Russia and France do not see why their former occupiers are worthy of honour.

Furthermore cememtaries are places of rememberance and commemoration, of lives lost in war. Controversy in recent years over cemetaries might also stem from the fact that people in local areas have no wish to remember those who fought and died there if they fought against the interests, freedoms or lives of the communities which live there now.

In conclusion military cemetaries and memorials are places of rememberance, commemoration, peace and of honour but there are always going to be arguments over what people wish to commemorate and honour.

Just a few thoughts,

JGM

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Thanks for your comments JGM,

I'm not advocating war by the way [not that you have suggested otherwise], merely stating that conflict has arisen out of the pursuit for peace, and while a subjective word, open to many interpretations, there was very little peace in the fierce debates which raged on how the dead should be remembered. The 'Cross of Sacrifice' is but one example in which it may be argued that the memory of the dead was temporary sullied while personal egos' battled it out. The search for a suitable inscription was perhaps another. Hardly conducive to the memory of the dead.

I take your point, though, on the insistence that the German dead be also accorded the same respect, and Fricourt German Cemetery is a testament to the way differences were sometimes set aside. However, I am not convinced that this was a sentiment or gesture which which was universally shared [if not a token gesture] and there are other, more far-reaching issues which need to be addressed surrounding the dead, and how the dead were put to rest in the aftermath of war. This also includes the rather emotive, and provocatively-charged subject of how the dead are remembered and honoured almost a century later.

Kind Regards,

Dave

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It depends on how you view Cemeteries,personally the sight of innumerable White Headstones or Crosses,would be extremely difficult for all but the the most heartless of beings to view without reflecting on the waste of humanity & consequently the futility of War,this is what Schweitzer would probably be referring to rather than political bitching about who is buried where.

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Hi Harry,

the 'personal is political', and how the dead are honoured and remembered in all countries, is a political act, regardless of whether this is a verbal or abstract statement, or whether it takes the form of demonizing the enemy, and glorifying war. In terms of memorialisation, I'd like to refer you to the fascinating monument which Chris Noble has posted a few threads below. The spaces in which the fallen were buried is no less controversial.

Kind Regards,

Dave

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Great communication cuts no ice with those who cannot or will not hear.

Perhaps the cemeteries message is rather like those messages beamed into space. It will be received one day.

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Thanks for the input, Ian.

Very profound, although a little ambiguous, and I'm not entirely sure what you mean. However, I'm sure you'll agree, that communication works both ways, whether you agree or disagree.

Regards,

Dave

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I wouldn't have thought that the original quote is disproved by the politics, disagreements or whatever in the upkeep of the cemeteries. Any issue about which one or more persons are passionate is going to lead to times of contention, but unless I am missing some rather extreme events, the disagreements over war cemeteries has not yet led to war.

Surely the quote is stating that to see and ponder upon all the war cemeteries is to a reasonable mind, enough to want to avoid war in the future. In this I believe it does fail. There is much violence and horror of war going on in our current time, and this has not been curbed by the thought of fatalities it will produce. War cemeteries are only likely to have the desired effect upon reasonable and generally contented minds. They are there for us to remember what happened, to reflect upon lifes cut so short, but I feel their effect on the future to be minimal.

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Thanks Jon,

You're probably right, "disagreements over war cemeteries has not yet led to war", and I would be hard pressed to find a concrete example, or even attempt to offer one. Indeed, there is something to be be said about the emotions and passions which war cemeteries evoke, and I am not immune to the meanings they are meant to convey. There is also something to be said about the 'democratization' and 'levelling of death', in which rank and file, and different denominational and ethnic groups, are all buried together. However, the way in which death and sacrifice has often been exploited does have political ramifications. The politics and liturgy of National Socialism is but one example in which the dead were politicized for ideological means, and the different 'truths' which were sought in the aftermath of war.

Kind Regards,

Dave

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