Adam Carr wrote:
On a related subject, the retreating Germans left behind hundreds of thousands of graves on Soviet territory. What became of them? Were they all destroyed by the Soviets, or have they been maintained, or have any remains been repatriated to Germany? Are there now any maintained German war cemeteries on Russian, Ukrainian or Belarusian territory?
As is often the case here, no-one has answered my question - instead various people have started arguing about more-or-less related issues.
The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. is a humanitarian organization which is charged by the Federal Republic of taking care of registering the German war dead abroad and to ensuring that it is updated and monitored. The German Public Alliance advises relatives of war grave care, supervises public and private sites, supports international cooperation and assists within the sector of war grave care and fostering the engagement of young people in the last resting-place of the war-dead.
Today the Volksbund includes more than 400,000 active members and donators as well as more than one million interested people and persons who occasionally contribute to our organization. With their contributions and legacies and income from inheritances and bequests as well as the income from house and street collections, which take place every year, the Volksbund finance their own activities to almost 75 percent. The rest is made up from the public contributions of the federation authorities of the countries.
The non-commercial Volksbund organization was founded December 16, 1919 out of necessity. The young republican government was neither politically nor economically in a position to take care of the graves of the soldier’s killed in action. This was mainly assigned to the Volksbund which was understood as a citizens’ action committee. From then until the beginning of the thirties, the Volksbund expanded the number of war graves. From 1933 on, the leadership of the Volksbund submitted themselves of their own accord to the political alignment of the National Socialist regime.
The construction of the military cemetery of the Second World War was undertaken by the grave care service of the armed forces. It was not until 1946 that the Volksbund could take up their humanitarian activity. In a short time they managed to construct more than 400 war gravesites in Germany. In 1954 the Federal Republic commissioned the Volksbund to identify, protect and maintain German soldier’s graves overseas.
Acting within the scope of bilateral agreements, the Volksbund started their work within Europe and Northern Africa, being responsible for 825 war gravesites in 45 countries with about 2.5 million war dead soldiers. More than 9,000 volunteers and 560 salaried employees fulfil the various activities of the organisation today.
After the political revolution within Eastern Europe the countries of the former Eastern Bloc were included in the work of the Volksbund. Approximately three million German soldier’s had lost their lives in the eastern countries in World War II. i.e. more then twice as many as the rest of the war gravesites in the West which brought the Volksbund immense challenges not least that more than 100,000 graves were difficult to find, had been destroyed, had been overbuilt or had been plundered. Regardless the Volksbund took care, repaired and constructed more than 300 cemeteries of World War II and the 190 grounds out of World War I in Eastern, Central and South Europe. There are 55 central cumulative cemeteries. Approximately 716,000 war dead have been reinterred.
The Volksbund founded the phrase “Gedenken und Frieden” - “Remembrance and Peace” to explain its purpose and guarantee long-term safeguarding.
The Volksbund enshrines the remembrance of the war dead by constructing and conserving the cemeteries. The huge burial grounds remind the people of the past and confront them with the consequences of war and violence.
To these purposes the Volksbund arranges trips to war graves and organizes national and international youth camps at war graves and memorials to care for and maintain military cemeteries and it works in schools and other youth organisations to inform them of its work and engage with young people. The motto for these activities: “Reconciliation above the graves”. Further the alliance founded meeting places and places for education for teenagers close to four cemeteries, where school classes/groups and youth groups are able to become involved with projects designed to promote peace, reconciliation and understanding.
The Bundeswehr and Reservists Association are supporting the Volksbund by working on national and international war graves, by organizing workcamps, at commemorative events as well as in the carrying out of house-to-house and street collections.
The Volkstrauertag (day of national mourning in Germany), which is in November each year is arranged by the Volksbund nationwide and solemnized by important political and social bodies as well as the German population. That day is a day of remembrance and a demand for peace.