Geoff Walden

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German War Memorials

   Like many small towns in the U.S. (especially in the South), many towns and even small villages in Germany have war memorials to their sons who have fallen in battle. These tend to be more prevalent in Bavaria, and they start with memorials to the 1866 war of Prussia vs. Austria (when the Bavarians fought unsuccessfully for Austria). The memorials continue to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 (in which the Bavarians fought on the victorious Prussian side), and on to World War I. Some of the World War I monuments are large and elaborate, featuring sculptures that are both expressive and moving. Many towns later added the names of the World War II casualties to these earlier monuments. It is instructive to note that in many cases, in contrast to the WWI names, the names of the missing in WWII far outnumber the names of the dead.

   These monuments are the sites for annual memorial ceremonies, very similar to Memorial Day in America. These services take place on two Sundays in November - Volkstrauertag and Totensonntag (the last two Sundays before Advent).

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This monument honors the dead of Panzerjäger Abteilung 38 of the 2nd Panzer Division, near Ledward Barracks in Schweinfurt.

Gedenkstein (Memorial Stone) to the dead of Panzerregiment 35, 4th Panzer Division, on the grounds of Warner Barracks in Bamberg.

World War I memorial, to which the World War II names were added, in Schwemmelsbach, west of Schweinfurt.

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On the left, a Gedenkstein honoring the dead of Panzerregiment 4, 2nd Panzer Division, in the Alt Friedhof (Old Cemetery) in Schweinfurt. On the right, a Gedenkstein to the dead and missing of the 1st SS Panzer Division, Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, in the Frankenwald.

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These memorials to the fallen soldiers of the 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking" and the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division "Götz von Berlichingen" are in the western part of Germany.

 

These two memorials are in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria. The one on the left is in Speinshart, while that on the right is in Eschenbach.  (both photos courtesy Greg Walden)

 

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This monument in the village of Obbach, west of Schweinfurt, honors the dead of both World Wars.

A similar monument in the village of Rieneck, north of Gmünden on the Main River.

 

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Details of monuments   --  left and center - Obbach; right - Rieneck

 

Grettstadt (left) and Oberspiesheim (right) - both south of Schweinfurt.

 

The memorial at Irschenberg in southern Bavaria (left) has a soldier with a sword and a banner, standing beside a lion, while that in Reiterswiesen in northern Bavaria (right) features Saint George slaying the dragon (Saint George wears a German helmet!).

 

Details of monument figures  --  above left - Grettstadt, center - Zeuzleben, right - Opferbaum (see below). Below left - Irschenberg, center - LAH Gedenkstein in Frankenwald, right - Reiterwiesen.

 

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The memorial in Fuchsstadt, near Hammelburg, has a dying lion similar to the famous Lion of Lucerne in Switzerland.

The war memorial in Gräfendorf, north of Gmünden, also has a dying lion - this lion has a broken spear in its side and is holding a broken sword in its paw.

This lion monument at the Gebirgsjäger Kaserne in Berchtesgaden-Strub is a memorial to German Mountain Troops in World War II.

 

This memorial is located on a hillside outside the small town of Hilpoltstein, in the Swiss Franconia region of northern Bavaria. It still looks exactly the same as when Hitler visited in 1936, with his adjutants Wilhelm Brückner and Julius Schaub - the only change has been the addition of side plaques with the names of the World War II dead.  ("Adolf Hitler, Bilder aus dem Leben des Führers," Altona, 1936, (author's collection)

 

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The memorial in Happurg, east of Nürnberg, features a Classical warrior watching over a wounded comrade. (The Doggerwerk tunnel system is located nearby.) Monument in the village of Großeutersdorf, near Kahla in Thüringen; near the site of the REIMAHG underground Me262 jet aircraft factory.

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This unusual memorial is also located in Swiss Franconia, in Velden. It is in a natural rock grotto, and honors soldiers from the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, and World War II. Note the large Iron Cross.

As with many other memorials, these also honor local soldiers from the three recent wars. The center monument is in Zeuzleben, southwest of Schweinfurt, and the monument on the right is in Opferbaum, north of Würzburg.

 

Cadolzburg, west of Nürnberg - a World War I memorial with World War II names added.

 

This elaborate memorial is in the Bavarian city of Kronach, just below the castle. The names of the First World War dead are on plaques in the center of the wall, while the Second World War dead appear on plaques beneath the sculpted soldiers' heads.  (courtesy Louis Lanier Hurdle)

 

These memorials are in towns near the Bavarian city of Kronach. On the left, Rothenkirchen, and on the right, Pressig.  (both photos courtesy Louis Lanier Hurdle)

 

This war memorial and soldier cemetery honors the dead of Bischofsgrün, a small Bavarian town near Bad Berneck(Thanks to Louis Lanier Hurdle for sending these photos.)

 

Munich, the capital of Bavaria, has a large war memorial to its fallen heroes of both World Wars. The memorial is in the form of a recumbent soldier beneath a large slab, located in front of the old Army Museum building on the Hofgarten (the building is now the Staatskanzlei).   (photos from the author's collection - see more photos here)

 

More period views of the Munich war memorial. The slogan on the slab - "Sie Werden Auferstehen" - can be translated as "They Will Rise Again.".  (photos from the author's collection)

 

The Munich War Memorial, then and now. The postcard on left is labeled "München Kriegerdenkmal" and "Sie werden auferstehen."  (photo on left courtesy R. Fogt)

 

Zolling, near Munich  (thanks to Louis Lanier Hurdle for sending these photos.)

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This memorial in the Franconian city of Würzburg honors the dead of World War I, whose names appear on the plaques along the rear wall. The memorial was by Würzburg sculptor Fried Heuler. Crosses were later added at the front of the site for the World War II dead.  (period postcard)

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One of the war memorials in Berchtesgaden is painted above the arcades in the palace square near the Rathaus (town hall). In the 1937 photo above, notice how the right-hand vignette once showed a Wehrmacht soldier with hand grenades, triumphing over fallen Russian soldiers in winter suits (see the close-up view below). The original 1929 painting was by Munich artist Josef Hengge, whose works were featured in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, 1941-1944. In June 1945, pursuant to an order by the U.S. military authorities to destroy all Nazi symbols, Hengge's vignettes were painted over. However, Hengge himself repainted the memorial in 1952, changing only the right-hand scene, and adding the dates for World War 2 (the memorial was again restored in recent years).

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Period views of the Berchtesgaden war memorial.  (postcards from author's collection)

 

Left - a 1937-dated postcard view. Right - a close-up showing the right-hand scene, which was changed when Hengge repainted the memorial in 1952.  (from 1945 films of the 101st Airborne Division in Berchtesgaden, U.S. National Archives)

 

This view is from a family photo album from 1936.  (author's collection)

 

This photo taken by a visiting American soldier in 1949 shows how Hengge's memorial was painted over in 1945,
except for the central scene.  (Westfield Athenaeum Collection, courtesy Frank Tompkins)

 

Left - GIs from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division ride past the Berchtesgaden memorial on a tank destroyer in May 1945. Right - LTC Kenneth Wallace, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division (on the right), discusses the surrender of Berchtesgaden with the mayor and other local officials, in the square in front of the war memorial, 4 May 1945.  (National Archives, RG 111-SC, 374710, 204346-S)

 

The second Berchtesgaden war memorial is on the rear wall of the arcade,
behind the arches beneath the painted memorial.

 

Memorial to the dead of both wars at the church in Oberau, near Berchtesgaden.

Monument to the dead of both wars in Hoch-Weisel, near Butzbach in Hessen. The inscription reads (in part) "We die for you, forget us not."

 

This very interesting memorial in the town of Webenheim in the Saarland (west of Zweibrücken) was erected in 1935 to honor the dead of World War I - the names and dates for World War II were added post-1945. Rather surprisingly, the Nazi eagle remains, although the swastika has of course been removed. Below the eagle appears the title "FÜR DAS VATERLAND GEFALLEN" - Died for the Fatherland. The memorial is guarded by two larger-than-life soldier statues, whose faces and helmets now show damaged areas (vandalism?, 1945 small arms fire?).
(Many thanks to Hugh F. Foster, LTC, USA (Ret.) for sending this information, and to Greg Pitty for the photos.)

 

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The memorial on the left is at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress near Koblenz; on the right is a memorial in Mandersheid, in the Eifel region.  (both photos courtesy R. Fogt)

 

The town of Wilgartswiesen, south of Kaiserslautern, erected this memorial to its fallen sons of the First World War. The memorial was erected in 1938 and features typical Third Reich heroic sculptures of soldiers with rifles and hand grenades, and a soldier with a flag who is leaving his plow and his wife to go off to war.  (photos courtesy Greg Pitty)

 

These two memorials in Bavaria honor the memory of French Waffen-SS soldiers who were killed at the end of the war by their own countrymen. I will not reveal the exact location of these, since left-wing extremists destroyed the 1st SS Panzer Korps memorial at Marienfels in April 2004. These 12 soldiers (some sources say 11), French volunteers of the 33rd SS Grenadier Division "Charlemagne," had been fighting on the Eastern Front but were in a hospital at the end of the war. They surrendered and were moving to a POW area, but were stopped by French forces under Gen. Philippe Leclerc. Declaring them to be "Boche" and traitors, Leclerc ordered them to be shot, which was done just before the end of hostilities. Their bodies were left lying on the ground, to be buried a few days later by American soldiers. A few years after the end of the war, they were reinterred in the local town cemetery. Their sacrifice is remembered each year by their comrades and other veterans.  (my sincere thanks to my friend Ralf Hornberger for showing me these sites)

December 2007 note - Although the Marienfels 1st SS Panzer Korps memorial has apparently been rebuilt in Fretterode in Thüringen, the first memorial shown below, marking the site where these soldiers were executed and initially buried, was removed in October 2007 by local authorities. There is nothing there now but a bare patch of ground. This is yet another example of the extreme difficulty that Germany still experiences in dealing with its past.

The photo on the left shows Gen. Leclerc confronting the prisoners. On the right is the memorial where they were shot and originally buried. The memorial wreaths bear inscriptions such as "To Our Murdered Comrades," "If All the Brothers Remain Silent" ("Wenn alle Brüder schweigen"), "When All Become Unfaithful, We Remain Truly Faithful," "We Respectfully Honor the Memory of the Brave Heroes of the Waffen-SS," "Their Honor Was Loyalty."
These memorials were erected in the town cemetery where the soldiers were reburied after the war. The plaque with the Fleur-de-Lis has 12 symbolic bullet marks, and reads "To the Twelve Brave Sons of France, Prisoners of the Victor, Who Were Executed Without Judgment."

 

This monument was erected in October 1994 by the survivors of the Flakbatterie unit stationed at Ettleben, near Schweinfurt. Ettleben was the site of one of the larger flak positions (three batteries of six 8.8cm guns each) that defended the bearing industry in Schweinfurt, and fought the advancing U.S. Army in early April 1945.

 

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This monument was erected in 1998 to the memory of the Schweinfurt bombing and air battle victims on both sides, military and civilian. The memorial was sponsored jointly by the Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association (founded to honor the air crews who fought in the 14 October 1943 battle) and the association of Luftwaffenhelfer of the local flak batteries. The wording is in both German and English, but while the German honors all the victims, 1943-45, the English is written only for the casualties of the "Black Thursday" attack, 14 October 1943. The monument was erected beside the largest of Schweinfurt's air defense shelters (Luftschutzbunker).

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This unusual memorial honors not those who fell in battle, but the "Deutschen Osten" - the German inhabitants of the eastern sections of Greater Germany, who were driven from their homes into exile in 1945, when these parts were taken over by Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Russia. This memorial is on the site of a Thingplatz at Bad Windsheim, in northern Bavaria.

 

These memorials also honor the sacrifices of the "Deutschen Osten." On the left is a memorial to the Sudeten Deutschen of Czechoslovakia, located in Winkl near Berchtesgaden. At center and right is a memorial in the Old Cemetery in Schweinfurt, to the Deutschen Osten of all Eastern European areas, including Russia.

 

This memorial of an unusual design honors World War I soldiers. It is in the shape of an Iron Cross, laid out as a low wall enclosing a grove of 64 oak trees. The cross is located on a hillside to the west of Burgbernheim in northern Bavaria. The cross shape is difficult to see from ground level, without snow on the ground, but it shows up clearly in the aerial photo on the right, taken from a balloon.  (aerial photo courtesy Curtis A. Edwards)

 

German War Memorials page  -  http://www.denkmalprojekt.org/en.htm
(Thanks to Fred Holst for this link!)

Ewiger Ruhm Page (in German)  -  http://www.ewiger-ruhm.de/htm/denkmaeler_fr.htm

 

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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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