Klerkenstraat 86A - Langemark
The 'Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof' in Langemark is particularly poignant by the power of simplicity. Behind the monumental gate made of pink Weserberg sandstone more than 44,000 Germans are buried. Almost 25,000 are buried in a mass grave. More than 3,000 student-volunteers from the 22nd to 27th Reserve Corps found their final resting place here. They died between October and November 1914 during repeated attacks in the First Battle of Ypres. Because of the large number of students among these volunteers, the cemetery was given the name 'Studentenfriedhof'.
At the entrance there is a heavy gate building reminiscent of a bunker. It was built in red sandstone from the Weser/Vesdre and was meant to make the transition from everyday life to the cemetery itself and still create some distance.
There are three rooms in the gatehouse: the central passageway and two side rooms. The entrances and exits as well as the entrances to the two side rooms can be closed with heavy gates made of hand-forged metal.
The walls and ceiling of the central passage are finished with mosaic stones, the side rooms with oak. The oak panels of the 'room of honour' on the right show the names of the 6313 identified casualties of the original cemetery (lowest part).
Around the cemetery there is a low wide fence wall made of the same type of stone as the gatehouse. Pollard willows grow along the street side (as a guard of honour). The right-hand section around the former poppy field (now with burials from the mid-1950s) is surrounded by a wide ditch which is reminiscent of flooding of the Belgian Front.
Because the German military cemetery of Langemark offered the most space, in the period 1956-1958 all unidentified excavations from Belgium were placed here in a grave of comrades. Behind the separation wall at the time, 366 graves were moved to make room for the giant grave. Almost 25,000 mortal remains were buried here.
In front of the grave lie the shields of 8 Belgian provinces (East and West Flanders is named Flanders; Brabant was not yet divided into Flemish- and French- Brabant). Centrally between the 8 shields is a bronze wreath of oak with the words 'Ich habe dich bei deinem namen gerufen, du bisst mein' from the prophet Isaiah (43,1).
Around the mass grave are blocks with 68 bronze panels bearing the names of more than 17.000 unidentified persons who, on the basis of archival research, are almost certain to have been buried in this mass grave. The names are arranged alphabetically, starting at panel 1 (left in relation to the mass grave), then clockwise along the inside of the blocks up to panel 34, then further counter-clockwise from the back of panel 34 along the outside.
The sculpture group of the professor at the Munich Akademie der Bildender Künste Emil Krieger originally stood against the former dividing wall between the mass grave and the entrance building. Four mourning soldiers were depicted standing with their backs against the wall, at the back of the mass grave. In this way, the statues had to be viewed from a distance. the images were executed very soberly. The whole statue had to call for reflection.
On the higher part of the cemetery there are three restored German concrete pill boxes, partly above ground with the entrances facing the German line (north). To emphasize this defence line (Hindenburg Line Langemark-Geluveld) even more, the bunkers were connected with large blocks made of concrete with a granite block in front with the names of army departments and student associations who helped to set up the original cemetery in the 1930s.
The reception next to the cemetery chronicles the life of a soldier during the first months of the war and for the loss of population, the horror of the first gas attacks in April 1915 and the origin and evolution of this cemetery. The reception is a black tunnel, 25 meters long and 3 meters wide. On the left 7 displays showing the history of this modest site. The sober design of the reception, combined with authentic and new images, provide a unique experience!
The cemetery and the reception are accessible for free every day from sunrise to sunset.
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