One big advantage of living as an expat in Germany or other European lands is the easy acccess to Europe’s many attractions. Besides travel within Germany itself, a short trip across its borders puts you in France, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, or several other neighboring nations.
When I was living in Berlin (for two different stints in Germany) I traveled to many European countries, but primarily to France. One of my French trips took me, along with a few family members, to Normandy to visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer and the German Military Cemetery at La Cambe.
MORE: Also see the related Web links below.
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer sits on land that France has granted to the United States. There is another American war cemetery in Normandy. Despite its name, the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial, near Saint-James, is actually located in Normandy, on the border with Britanny. The Utah Beach American Memorial is only a short drive from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
As large as it is, the cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer is not the largest World War II burial place in Normandy. About ten miles (16km) from the American cemetery is the much larger German Military Cemetery and Memorial near the town of La Cambe. While the US cemetery has 9,387 graves, the German cemetery at La Cambe is the final resting place for over 21,000 German war dead. About 100,000 soldiers on both sides perished during the fighting in Normandy.
The new Normandy Visitors Center at the American cemetery opened in 2007. The $30-million complex was dedicated by the American Battle Monuments Commission on June 6, 2007 during the commemoration of the 63rd Anniversary of D-Day. The center is set in a wooded area of the cemetery, east of the Garden of the Missing. The Normandy Visitors Center offers exhibits and films about the cemetery. The Colleville-sur-Mer American cemetery draws approximately one million visitors each year.
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The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer is dedicated to the US soldiers who fought and died during and after the D-Day invasion of Normandy on Tuesday, June 6, 1944. Not far from this US cemetery lies the German cemetery at La Cambe.
La Cambe: The German Military Cemetery and Memorial
Der Soldatenfriedhof von La Cambe – Cimetière militaire allemand de La Cambe
The German Military Cemetery at La Cambe (near Bayeux) in Normandy was originally the site of a combined World War II battlefield graveyard where American and German soldiers, sailors, and airmen were buried in two adjacent fields. Beginning in 1945, two-thirds of the fallen Americans at La Cambe were transferred to the United States for burial, while the remainder were reinterred at the new American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer (see above). Construction of the new La Cambe German War Cemetery began in 1958, using mostly youth volunteer help. La Cambe was officially inaugurated as a war cemetery on September 21, 1961.
Today La Cambe, with more than 21,000 German soldiers’ graves, is the largest of six German World War II cemeteries in France. The other five are: Champigny-Saint-André German War Cemetery (near Saint-André-de-l’Eure), Marigny German War Cemetery (near La Chapelle-en-Juger), Mont-de-Huisnes German War Cemetery (near Huisnes-sur-Mer), Orglandes German War Cemetery, and the Saint-Désir-de-Lisieux German War Cemetery. Fallen German soldiers are also found in 10 British World War II cemeteries, including the Bayeux War Cemetery, with over 460 German graves, and Cheux-St.-Manvieu, with 555 German graves.
Unlike the American and Commonwealth War Graves Commissions, the German War Graves Commission (Der Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) receives no government support. It is entirely voluntary and depends on gifts and donations for its work.
Other American Cemeteries and Memorials in Normandy and Europe:
• Ardennes American Cemetery (Belgium)
• Brittany American Cemetery (Normandy, France)
• Cambridge American Cemetery (UK)
• Lorraine American Cemetery (St Avold, France)
• Luxembourg American Cemetery
• Netherlands American Cemetery (Margraten, Netherlands)
• Utah Beach American Memorial (Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy)
For a complete list of American WWI and WWII cemeteries and memorials worldwide see: ABMC: Cemeteries and Memorials from the American Battle Monuments Commission
Other WWII Cemeteries and Memorials in Normandy and Europe:
• Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery
• Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery
World War I Sites
Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was a German war hero and flying ace from the First World War. There are also many WWI cemeteries in France, Germany, and other European countries. See the ABMC link above for a list of World War I American cemeteries.
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AT THE GERMAN WAY
- The Red Baron, Manfed von Richthofen was a German war hero from the First World War. He was buried five times, first in France, but his current grave lies in Germany.
- History and Culture in German-speaking Europe
ON THE WEB
- The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer has an informative official site.
- TIME: At D-Day Commemoration Few Mourn the War’s Losers – A Time magazine article
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