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Old 6th July 2008, 19:07
Rob Philips Rob Philips is offline
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Concentration of Allied graves in the former DDR


Graves of Allied WW2 aviators, who fell or washed ashore in occupied territory and Germany, were recorded after the liberation of an area, by the Allied Grave Registration Units (GRU). Many graves were concentrated in dedicated war cemeteries. This was done by Grave Concentration Units (GCU). The graves of the unknowns were investigated by the Missing Research & Enquiry Service (MR&ES), leading to identifications, if at all possible. This was done in either the concentration cemeteries, or in the places of initial burial.

Many graves were left in the places of initial burial. There does not seem to be a clear cut guiding line for decisions about grave relocations. It is said that graves were left in local care, if locals expressed a wish to that effect, and promised to look after the graves. Fact is that I have not seen a single grave of an Allied aviator, buried in some tiny village somewhere, that shows signs of neglect.

One clear rule has been followed. Allied was graves found in the soil of Germany would all be relocated to about a dozen large concentration cemeteries. All this required an immense effort, that must have met with very many difficulties, but not with opposition. There is one exception. Those who fell and were buried in what would later become the DDR, Eastern Germany, were buried in soil under control of the Sovjets, who had become the new enemy when WW2 had ended. In correspondence, MR&ES staff express their concern with the lack of cooperation experienced from the Sovjet authorities. The GCU & MR&ES were prohibited from doing their job behind the Iron Curtain.

This raised the suspicion that Allied war graves, especially of unknowns, may still be scattered over the area of the former DDR. To substantiate or falsify this hypothesis, two experiments were done. One involved raising the GRU, GCU & MR&ES reports of a dozen Allied aviators buried as unknowns in Berlin Charlottenburg War Cemetery. All bodies came from villages in the former DDR. After that, I visited a dozen randomly selected cemeteries in former DDR villages. No graves were seen that could possibly indicate the burial of an Allied war casualty. Both samples taken were admittantly quite small, but it seems that the Sovjets have in fact cooperated fully, if reluctantly at first, with this grave concentration process.

I would be interested to hear from any-one who can shoot holes in these notions. A more specific shape of the same question would be: can any-one identify places where Allied WW2 casualties are buried in the soil of the former DDR, other than Berlin Charlottenburg and Gardelegen? The last is the cemetery for the 1.016 Allied casualties of the Gardelegen massacre, and most of these remained unknown. I cannot prove it, but consider it possible that these casualties may have included one or a few Allied aviators taken POW, and added to the prisoner transports as a matter of convenience to their captors.

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