War Memorial Complex in Darmstadt Forest Cemetery

Pictures and text by Mark R. Hatlie

These pictures were taken on 12 Febuary, 2006 in the forest cemetery of the city of Darmstadt. It obviously grew over time, starting out as a final resting place for men who died in or near Darmstadt during World War One, later absorbing fallen soldiers from World War Two, and then as the mass buriel sites from the September 11/12, 1944 allied bombing raid on the city. Over 12,000 people in Darmstadt died that night - more than twice the total number of American civilians killed during the entire war.

The complex can be accessed from several sides by a few small paths, but this is the main, central entrance. The memorial for the refugees of 1945 is directly behind the viewer here.
Once inside, the multi-tiered layout becomes clearer. The center of the circle is the grave for the bombing victims, the first level for the fallen of World War Two, and the outmost ring for the fallen soldiers of World War One.
A sculpture of three (presumably dead) people is near the entryway.
There are many of these bronze plaques arrayed around the circle of the mass grave. They bear the names of those who died in the September 11, 1944 air raid. The stairway leads to the second level where individual graves from the Second World War are.
Most of the plaques are in groups of three. There are about 40 of them.
The individual grave markers for the World War Two dead are arranged in rows typical of German military cemeteries of the era.
They show the name, rank, and date of death. This man was a sergeant.
This man was a private.
Not all the dead were military. There were over a dozen markers with the date 23 September, 1943, including several from the Mattern family. Was there a smaller raid on the city at that time?
Some still get individual recognition by visitors.
On the World War Two level, on the right of the complex, this large, coffin-like plaque in the grass, read, "Here lie 873 unidentified dead 11/12 September, 1944".
Here the layout of the complex is again visible. The crosses on the World War Two level are typical of those for German military cemeteries.
Once you are among the gravestones from the First World War, you realize that there are more rows than were initially visible. They are also arrayed along the backs of the hedgerows, for a total of six rows of graves - quite a few more graves than for World War Two.
Each marker bears an ornate iron cross, the rank, name and years of birth and death of a single soldier.
Almost 80 years later, individual markers still get attention from particular visitors.
This is the view back toward the center of the complex.
The white cross stands above the complex.
The base of the cross reads, You are not forgotten".
The wreath reads, "Your Stammtisch / Eva, Gigi, Ingrid, Manu and Ruschka". The word Stammtisch refers to a table in a restaurant or bar that is reserved for a particular club or clique on a regular basis. The friends who laid this wreath were thus the regular hangout buddies of whomever they are remembering here.
My habit of not touching items at these sites led me to not think to turn this piece of art over to see if there isn't more information on it. It reads, "Now the soul can dance".
The back of the cross explains its origin and dates the beginning of the complex. It reads, "Reich Association of Former Prisoners of War / Darmstadt Group / Erected 1932"

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