Friday, December 03, 2010

Researching German & Austrian War Casualties




Kitzbühel War Memorial, Austria
Commemorating the Fallen of the World Wars


For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below

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Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information (1)
War Memorials in Austria

Putting aside what one may think about what the German and Austrian casualties of the two World Wars gave their lives for they were still belonged to bereaved families the same as Allied casualties. The Kitzbühel War Memorial, Austria shown in the above photograph was first dedicated in 1923 to commemorate those from the Kitzbühel district who lost their lives fighting for Austria – Hungary in the 1914 – 1918 war.

As with most war memorials in Britain, France or other European countries most f the list of names of those who died in the 1914 – 1918 war tends to be longer than that for the 1939 – 1945 war. The situation with war memorials in Austria is somewhat different from most other countries. During WW2 Austria was part of the German Third Reich. Therefore any casualties were not actually fighting for Austria but part of the German Third Reich.

Having visited a number of Austrian towns during 2010, when referring to the years 1938 – 1945 Austrian guides and citizens tend to refer to these years as “… during the German Occupation” reminiscent of what one tends to hear in France, Belgium or the Netherlands. Because Germany and Austria were inextricably linked during WW2 casualties from these lands are commemorated by a single German War Graves Commission equivalent to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which looks after the records and graves from the two World Wars for the British, Empire and Commonwealth casualties of the two World Wars

Additional information (2)
Caring for German & Austrian War Graves

In the 1950s the West German government made agreements with the French and British governments for the correct identification, where possible, of ‘German’ casualties (which includes Austrians) and also the future care of these war graves. For example, at that time in France (Normandy) there were a number of mass German graves where inevitably the individual casualties were unidentified.

Consequently, where possible the casualties were exhumed, where possible identified and re-interred in the one of the war cemeteries. In some cases this was the first time families knew for certain how and where a loved one – previously reported as ‘missing’ had been killed. At the very least for some families there was a certain ‘closure’ of a family bereavement and finally a grave which could be visited.

A similar agreement was made between the governments of the UK and the Federal Republic of Germany, concluded on 16 October 1959. Although the numbers of German and Austrian nationals who died in the UK during the World Wars were much fewer that in France, nevertheless there were over 5000 buried in cemeteries and churchyards all over the UK. These included former POWs, airmen who had been shot down over the UK, seaman and civilians who had died while interned.

For those casualties who were not already buried in cemeteries and plots maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission the agreement of October 1959 provided for their transfer to a new cemetery which was established at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. The German equivalent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge or ‘VDK’ for short – made the arrangements for the transfer.

Transfer of those casualties to Cannock Chase – almost 5000 in number – was completed by 1967. The inauguration and dedication ceremony took place on 10 June 1967 in the presence of Dr Trepte (President of the VDK). In the centre of the Hall of Honour is a bronze sculpture of ‘The Fallen Warrior’ by the eminent German sculptor Professor Hans Wimmer.

The KDK is based at Kassel, Germany. As an organisation similar to the CWGC they should be able to provide information regarding any German and Austrian graves of WW2.

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Acknowledgements:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge

Friday, 03 December, 2010  

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