War Memorials

War Memorials

Remembrance Sunday in Germany is on the second Sunday in November, a week or so later than in the UK. It’s also much more muted than it’s British counterpart: there are no aged legionaries with breastplates of shining campaign medals, no ceremonies where flags are paraded into churches or marched out to war memorials. There wasn’t even a German flag hanging in the cemetery where the memorials are discreetly placed on two sides of a small courtyard: two for the First World War, and three for the Second.

A small group of middle aged and elderly people, all in civilian clothes, stood along the sides of the courtyard, facing a small lectern and a choir, while the village mayor gave an address: not about remembering the ‘Heroism’ or ‘honour’ of the dead: more the loss of a generation across many nations, the families who were left behind.

Mention was made of the German troops currently serving as peacekeepers in various places, American troops who have been killed in Iraq, the men, women and children of all nations who died, or were displaced by wars since 1945. Then, again the call to remember the horror of war, and to commit to peace. Three wreaths were laid alongside the memorials before our local pastor read a psalm, and prayed for the victims of war.

Then it was all over, the band packed away their instruments, the fire brigade (the only uniformed people present) furled their flag, the lectern was wheeled away, and some attendees went to look for names of family members listed there, those who followed their leaders’ call and died, or disappeared; some willingly and some not, for an unworthy cause which some thought worthy, some far from home and some fighting in fields near their own villages in the last weeks before peace.

Then we went back to the noise and busyiness of the present day, where cars running on oil, which nations still fight for, were passing by.