La Cambe German war cemetery
Template:Infobox Military Cemetery La Cambe is a military war grave cemetery, located close to Bayeux, France. Presently containing in excess of 21,000 German military personnel of World War II, it is maintained and managed by the German War Graves Commission.
La Cambe was originally the site of a battlefield cemetery, established by the United States Army Graves Registration Service during the war, where American and German soldiers, sailors and airmen were buried in two adjacent fields.
After the war had ended on the continent and paralleling the work undertaken to repair all the devastation that the war had caused, work began on exhuming the American remains and transferring them in accordance with the wishes of their families. Beginning in 1945, the Americans transferred two-thirds of their fallen from this site back to the United States while the remainder were reinterred at the new permanent American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, which overlooks the Omaha Beach landing site.
Because of the pace of the war, the German war dead in Normandy were scattered over a wide area, many of them buried in isolated field graves - or small battlefield cemeteries. In the years following the war, the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) sought to establish six main German cemeteries in the Normandy area.
La Cambe, as an existing site of German war dead that was already informally cared for by the German War Graves Commission, was a natural choice for one of the six formal sites. After the signing in 1954 of the Franco-German Treaty on War Graves, La Cambe was formally cared for, allowing the remains of 12,000 German soldiers to be moved in from 1,400 locations in the French departments of Calvados and the Orne.
La Cambe was officially inaugurated as a German War Cemetery in September 1961. Since that date, the remains of more than 700 soldiers have been found on battlefields across Normandy, and reinterred at La Cambe.
Layout and landscaping of the site began immediately after formal handover, which today has created at its centre a large tumulus, flanked by two statues and topped by a large dark cross in basalt lava, which marks the resting place for 207 unknown and 89 identified German soldiers, interred together in a mass grave. The tumulus is surrounded by 49 rectangular grave fields with up to 400 graves each. On the large green grass area the graves are identified by flat grave markers.
The sign in front of the cemetery reads as follows: Template:Cquote
The majority of the German war dead buried at La Cambe fell between June 6 and August 20, 1944 and their ages range from 16 to 72. They died during the Allied landings and the ensuing combat. Casualties of the war in Normandy are still being found after some 70 years, although formal burial ceremonies are less frequent these days. In total, as of July 2008, there are the remains of 21,222 German soldiers, sailors and airmen buried at La Cambe. The buried include:
- SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann: the most senior officer at the massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June 1944. Ordered to be court martialled, he was killed in battle in Normandy on 29 June.
- SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann: Tiger tank ace, who along with his tank crew was informally buried in an unmarked site following their deaths on 8 August 1944. Rediscovered in 1983, the entire crew were and reinterred together at La Cambe.<ref name=Lefevre>Template:Cite book</ref>
Since the mid-1990s, there has been an Information Center on the site to the memory of the losses of Operation Overlord, when in summer 1944 more than 100,000 people died: American, British, German, French, Canadian, Poles and members of other nations. Also at least 14,000 French civilians died. Human fates and reconciliation are special themes. Visitors can also view a permanent exhibition about the German War Graves Commission and have access to a database to locate the graves of dead German military. An adjoint peace-garden with 1,200 maple-trees from gifts symbolizes that peace ought to grow.
Unlike the American and Commonwealth War Graves Commissions, the German Commission is entirely voluntary and relies on gifts and collections to further its work. During the summer months one may see international school children tending the graves. They volunteer to work with the Volksbund during their school holidays and visit American and German war cemeteries, memorials, sites of the invasion and take part in the memorial ceremony with veterans and the mayor of La Cambe.
- List of military cemeteries in Normandy
- Website of Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (German war graves Commission and details on La Cambe German cemetery) Template:De icon
- La Cambe German war cemetery on website faehrtensucher.com Template:De icon
- ANEG:Cimetières allemands en France. La Cambe- Calvados (14) Template:Fr icon
- La Cambe German war cemetery on website cheminsdemémoire.gouv.fr
- World War II Battlefields
- Photos from La Cambe