A Tale of Two Luxembourg Cemeteries

by Scott Manning on April 26, 2013

Visiting both the Luxembourg American Cemetery and German War Cemetery consecutively provided an interesting perspective on how two peoples on opposing sides have chosen to remember their war dead.

Both cemeteries hold soldiers who fought during World War II, many during the Battle of the Bulge. There is a heavy dose of crosses at both, large and small. However, past that, the differences take over, which are striking.

The American cemetery is a grand spectacle, noticeable even in aerial imagery. The use of white contrasts against the grass.


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However, aerial imagery of the much smaller German cemetery hardly reveals it. If I did not tell you it was cemetery, you likely would never spot it. The use of grey almost blends with the shaded grass, much of which is covered by trees.


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Remarkably, there are twice as many Germans buried, but fewer headstones. The reason is that the American cemetery plants a headstone for each body whereas the German cemetery will use a single headstone to represent up to four bodies.

The German cemetery has no chapel or visitor center. It also has no national symbols, only crosses and angels. The style of crosses and use of grey gives it an almost medieval feel.

Luxembourg Germany Cemetery

Luxembourg German War Cemetery

The real difference is the ease of deciphering the purpose of the cemeteries. As soon as you enter the American cemetery, it is clear that it holds soldiers. There are giant maps of battles flanking the chapel. Flags are half-mast. It is militaristic, celebratory in nature.

Luxembourg American Cemetery Map

However, the German cemetery has none of this. You have to read its headstones to see ranks until you realize that it houses men fallen in battle.

None of this is a critique of the cemeteries; it is just fascinating to ponder that after fighting a world war, two sides could bury their dead one mile apart with such different approaches.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave Jordan April 27, 2013 at 8:12 PM

Hi Scott!

I also visited those two cemeteries almost 20 years ago. I went in the fall, when there were still leaves on the trees in the German cemetery. This gave it a totally different ambiance from the US cemetery. The US cemetery was sunlit and had a quiet peacefulness. The German cemetery was quite dark and gloomy. I don’t know if this was intentional, and if it is typical of other German cemeteries (military and civilian) but the contrast was quite striking.

Dave

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2 Scott Manning May 1, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Dave, “dark and gloomy” would be a great way to describe the German cemetery, especially after visiting the American cemetery. When I asked my German coworker if this was typical of German cemeteries, he indicated that they all have different styles.

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