Wisely our guide Patrick, took us to look at different perspective of the Great War in the Ypres area, we visited Langemark cemetery one of only four German cemeteries in Flanders area. I’m glad he did.
Below is the main entrance, the style is very different to the Commonwealth War Graves sites, it has a completely different atmosphere, but then how we remember our dead, varies from one end of the country to the other, let alone another country and a very different set of circumstances. The white stone of the British and Commonwealth cemeteries is an obvious difference to the dark stone of the German.
Although to my mind British and Commonwealth War Graves, and this German cemetery have a common theme, its a sense of enclosure, that goes a little way to bring the unimaginable enormity of this carnage (over 44,000 burials here) into, a place, however symbolic, that provides a sense, that is somehow, protective and embracing.
The tablet shaped stones bear the names of many, we counted seventeen on one.
Inside one of the two chambers at the entrance to the cemetery engraved in oak are the names of the men who are known to be buried here, but their grave is not identifiable, each day the rise and fall of the sun arcs light across them.
The cemetery is planted, with oaks, a German symbol of strength ( remember there are no trees here that pre date the Great War, they were all destroyed by shelling and gun fire, these oaks are 80 years old)
There is a wreath made of bronze oak leaves, mother nature slipped her own oak leaves in amongst the castings
A visitor had left a poppy,
the German flower of remembrance is a corn flower, Patrick told us more British and Commonwealth visitors come here than German. Whilst we were there, there were several British school parties, I’m so pleased about this, its so important, and government funding is available for schools to visit.
There is a striking bronze sculpture of grieving soldiers
They look out over an area of grass, an area not as big as a tennis court, this is the communal grave for 25,000 soldiers, yes twenty five thousand,
the names of only half of them are known. This small patch of grass, contains the equivalent of the population of our nearest market town. I stood and thought about this for sometime,
Patrick pointed out a gateway too us
And then showed us a photo of Hitler, walking through the gate in June 1940. Chilling, how, why?