World War One Cemetery, Tuebingen

Pictures and text by Mark R. Hatlie

These pictures were taken on October 17, 2005, in the municipal cemetery behind the university. While the cemetery is generally well kept, there was no sign of any recent activity, no candles or fresh flowers as I had sometimes seen in the World War One cemetery in Konstanz ten years ago. It is usually the case, however, and it is in this one as well, that the dead buried here are not necessarily from local families. They are those who died in local hospitals of their wounds.

The city construction administrator (Baumeister) secured 80 gravesites for a military cemetery in the fall of 1914. By the summer of 1916 it already had 100 dead. So it was redesigned to take 250 simple graves. For a week, the new design was displayed in the window of the Osiander bookstore down town.

In February of 1921, the city approved the money for a real memorial complex at the site, where 261 soldiers who had died in Tuebingen hospitals lay buried. The unveiling took place on 20 October of the same year, dreary day according to reports. A black-clad crowd made its way to the cemetery, men's choirs sang, there were speeches and sermons. Eulogies were said and wreaths layed by the mayor, representatives of the Wuerttemberg officers associationa, military and veterans organizations, the Reichsbund for the wounded and widowed, and a student representative.

The Catholic city priest said in his sermon that he felt as though the ground were opening up and the dead were speaking to us from the earth. They were exhorting us to "Protect life, maintain loyalty, protect the youth, keep the peace!...Only fools think they are free when they free themselves from duty. Oh no, the realm of duty, that is the field on which you must prove yourselves as we have proven ourselves, that is your field of honor."

The theme of the dead speaking from the earth at the burial site is a theme also heard in the context of the Brethren Cemetery in Riga, Latvia. That reference is, however, not yet available at the webpage here - coming soon.

It is a large section of the cemetery surrounded by its own hedgerows.
The central pathway.
The large words read, "To the heroes of the World War, 1914-1918", indicating that it was built some time before the Second World War.
At the top there is the stern face of a German soldier in a steel helmut, designed by the sculptor Richard Knecht.
Most of the markers are stones laying in the ground in rows of 14 or 15. They are raised a few cenemeters out of the grass and tilted slightly toward the center row.
Thirty or so of them at the back are standing crosses. While some of the crosses appear to be for special people - officers or pastors - not all of them are. The men come from various military units.
The dead here include 244 Germans, 12 French, 4 Russians and 1 Brit.
All of the markers have years of birth and death...
...but only the crosses show rank and unit number.
The stone of some of the crosses is getting porrous and mildewy.
Some of the crosses and stones are being taken over by ivy, giving the stones an earie resemblance to the jungle soldiers of a later era with vegitation in their helmuts, crawling through the brush.
These last two pictures were taken on 9 November, 2005. They show the likely left-overs of an All Saints'remembrance at the sight. Although none of the individual graves were marked with a candle or flowers, someone left a wreath on the main terrace...
...and several people who were drinking champaign or apple juice from mustard glasses forgot to take the glasses along with them!

Source: Hornbogen, Helmut: Der Tübinger Stadtfriedhof. Wege durch den Garten der Erinnerung. Verlag Schwäbisches Tagblatt: Tübingen, 19??.

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Mark R. Hatlie (ViSdM)
Im Feuerhägle 1
D-72072 Tübingen

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