The memory of 50,000 dead soldiers

The Battle of Seelow Heights at the end of WWII is remembered as one of the bloodiest battles of a horrible war. Today, people from Russia, Poland and Germany joined in a solemn ceremony in Seelow, Brandenburg State. The speakers at the ceremony admonished their contemporaries to make every effort to instill in today’s youth tolerance, compassion and the love of peace. The head of the Brandenburg State government, Ministerpr√ɬ§sident Matthias Platzeck (Social Democratic Party), also called for increased efforts to stem the spread of nationalist extremism in Germany.

The gruesome legacy of WWII is still very much visible in Europe. Along the German French border, where I grew up, there are still many bunker ruins, and sometimes construction sites have to be cordoned off to defuse and remove unexploded shells from the war. I cannot imagine what nerves and skill it takes to defuse a 500-pound shell that’s been rusting in the dirt for 60 years!

In the last 12 years, researchers have unearthed the remains of many of the fallen soldiers on the Seelow Heights battlefield:

German officials said on Tuesday they had found the skeletal remains of 1,080 Wehrmacht and 700 Red Army soldiers at the Seelow Heights battlefield since they began searching 12 years ago for victims of the fiercest World War II combat in Germany.

“World War II won’t be truly finished until they’ve all been recovered and given a proper burial,” said Erwin Kowalke, head of a group that cares for German war graves. Communist East Germany distanced itself from Hitler’s Germany and for ideological reasons did not retrieve the dead soldiers.

“No one knows for sure how many are still out there, but I’d say there are still 10,000 — about 3,000 Germans and twice as many Soviets,” he told a group of journalists ahead of an April 16th memorial marking the 60th anniversary of the Seelow battle. – Reuters, April 5, 2005

Never Again!

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