Pictures and text by Mark R. Hatlie
These pictures were taken on October 18, 2005, on the edge of the town of Ruebgarten, now part of Pliezhausen, near Reutlingen, south of Stuttgart.
I had heard about this French memorial and that there was a sad story connected with it from American friends, so I went to investigate. Before and after seeing the memorial, I stopped the car and asked four different people, two of which were old enough to remember a bit of the incident, what it was all about. Further although still superficial information as well as another photo is available in German at versunkene-steine.de. While I cannot reconstruct a complete and coherant version, this is approximately what transpired:
After the town had fallen to the advancing French in April of 1945, the French marine soldiers memorialized in this monument were found dead at or near the current location of the monument, about 300 meters outside of town. The French in the town had gotten along with the population reasonably well. One witness remembers French soldiers distributing chocolate from the deep pockets of their long coats. She mentioned Moroccan units billeted in one part of town. Upon finding the dead men, the French army set to work burning the town down. Three houses burned down before the French allowed the fires to be put out. When French higher-ups arrived and some people in the town who could speak French got in touch with them, the matter was cleared up and the revenge on the village stopped. Somehow in the context of all of this or, perhaps, during the fighting for the village when it was initially taken, numerous civilians were also killed.
|The cross is still outside of the city, about 100 meters from the cemetery, overlooking a beautiful forested landscape.|
|It appears to be well kept up. Someone is taking good care of the flowers and trimming the hedge.|
|It reads, "Here Captain Lejeune, enlisted man Richard, cannonier Antoine fell on the field of honor, 23 April, 1945."|
|Here again, without the flowers in the way.|
|The cross overlooks a pleasant forested valley.|
|The small village cemetery also has this rather typical memorial to the fallen in the two world wars. The monument is totally symetrical, with one war on each side, so it would appear that the monument was made for both wars after the conclusion of World War Two.|
|All of the fallen from the First World War died on the western front. The local unit probably spent the war there. It was typical for German units to stay in one location for prolonged periods. French units were transferred more often.|
|The missing from the Second World War are listed in the middle section of the marker.|
|The fallen are not listed in strict chronological order, but rather by "front". Those who fell in the east are listed first and outnumber all the others combined. The other fronts are "the west", "Germany" and "Italy".|