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Cemetery for Fallen German Soldiers Opened

Published: September 12, 2000 (Issue # 602)



  • A lone trumpeter playing as wreaths are laid at the Sologubovka cemetery on Saturday, where German soldiers are buried.
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

German and Russian veterans gathered at a small village near St. Petersburg on Saturday to mark to opening of a war cemetery for German soldiers who were killed in World War II.

The five-hectare burial site was chosen by the German War Graves Association, which scouted various cemeteries with the unmarked graves of German soldiers in Russia before deciding on So logubovka, located about 70 kilometers northeast of St. Petersburg.

The remains of soldiers from smaller burial sites in the region were also collected and buried at Sologubovka.

At the opening, German veterans wandered among the graves looking for relatives and friends. One man, Kurz Willie, fought in the area in 1943. "There were 20 of us in my unit, all of us were 18 years old," he said, struggling to keep back tears. "Sixteen of us died." Another woman, Helga Ortner, was pointing joyfully at a name on the memorial: "I have found my husband's brother," she said.

Sologubovka is now the resting place of 20,000 soldiers, around half of whom have been identified. It is estimated that up to 80,000 will be buried here when the cemetery is completed, making it the largest war cemetery in Russia.

Russia has a total of 89 cemeteries for foreign soldiers, containing the remains of an estimated 400,000 people, according to a Reuters report on Monday. Germany alone lost up to 5 million on Soviet soil during World War II.

"In 1943, when we were being chased by the German Army, we went through this area," recalled Russian veteran Valentin, 75, who did not give his last name. "I remember a huge German cemetery on this spot, with graves marked by crosses made of birch."

The land on which the cemetery rests is the property of the Orthodox Church, which was thanked at the opening ceremony by Karl-Wilhelm Lange, president of the German War Graves Association, and by Germany's ambassador to Russia, Dr. Ernst Jorg von Studnitz.

There is also a Garden of Peace nearby, as well as a Church of the Assumption, being restored with funds from the War Graves Association as a gesture of reconciliation.

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