I would like to share with you some information about the cemetery, before moving to a personal discussion:
Langemark cemetery is one of only four First World War German cemeteries in the Flanders region. The total figure of casualties in this cemetery is close to 44,300 war dead: 19,378 identified and almost 25,000 unidentified and interred in a mass grave (Kameraden Grab / ‘’Comrades Graves’’).
The name of "Studentenfriedhof" (Student Cemetery) was given to this cemetery because of the more than 3,000 student volunteers who were killed in battle in October and November 1914 during repeated attacks in the First Battle of Ypres. About 15% of Germany's volunteer soldiers were students and high school graduates. During the First Battle of Ypres, many of them would face a much more experienced British Army.
At the back of the mass grave there is a group of statues of four mourning soldiers created by Munich sculptor Professor Emil Krieger. Standing with their backs against the wall, the statues need to be regarded from a distance. The statues are very plain. The intention of the total image was to evoke reflection.
At the entrance of the cemetery, one finds a monumental gate made of pink Weserberg sandstone. Oak trees representing strength are planted within the cemetery, a constant in most German Military cemeteries. In 1917, the block houses (bunkers) were build. These came from the local area and were most likely moved to the cemetery after the war.
When I entered this cemetery, the general feeling was one of deep sadness. Everything is dark in colour: crosses, statues and tombstones. And because of the many oak trees, light has difficulty shining through, which increases the austere experience. To see eight names to every headstone (and to realize there are more than 44,000 dead German soldiers in just one cemetery) adds to the senselessness of wars. It is a very different experience to visiting a Commonwealth War Grave Commission Cemetery, with rows of white tombstones, flowers and manicured cut grass. Walking in a CWGC cemetery feels more like a walk in a garden: it gives a sense of peace and tranquility. Although both honor the sacrifice of their soldiers, the feeling on the visitors is very different.
- Submitted by Simon