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Desacration at the Douaumont Ossuary


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#51 crickhollow

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:56 PM

I am wondering if we should not start a separate thread for people to express their opinions on the display of the dead, so as to keep this thread more on point to its original purpose?

I am also curious if there is any update re: the damage done being repaired or any leads on those responsible?

-Daniel

Yes, I suppose my comments are a little off the original point, which highlighted recent vandalism at Douaumont. Some of the subsequent comments however drifted into expressing opinions on the significance of the display of human remains as a form of commemoration. I think this is probably a topic in itself but (as a comparative newcomer to GWF) not sure if it is appropriate or of general interest.


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#52 depaor01

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 02:38 PM

I think the swastika ban only applies to items being sold that originate in Germany and are being sold by German folk. I see items with swastkkas regularly on eBay, just not from German sellers.

I know there are understandable issues in Germany with the manufacture and display of the Hakenkreuz. However I'm surprised you see such items for sale. Maybe it's your location, but on the European site you won't see anything except stamps and coins... But (he frantically scrambles to get back on topic) you can purchase someone's mortal remains.

#53 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:36 PM

Sad news, another break-in by the bone-collectors, at nearby Marville this time:


http://www.lavenir.n...120327_00137726

#54 healdav

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 10:23 AM

Sad news, another break-in by the bone-collectors, at nearby Marville this time:


http://www.lavenir.n...120327_00137726



I know this cemetery well. It is supposed to be the oldest in France. The ossuary, which is at the entrance dates from the Spanish Netherlands time.

This and the village of Marville across the valley deserve a visit.

The cemetery is quite large and is still in use. There are many 16th and 17th century graves and stones. The bizarre aspect of it is that there are 30 or 40 Canadian war graves - all of them babies, many just a day old or less. I have been in touch with a group of friends who were stationed there in the late 1950s and 60s and they say they have no idea why. Possibly polio? Even more bizarre is that when I was there last year I found that the crosses on the graves (which were in bad shape for the most part - and French crosses at that) had been renewed. Obviously there is no ident for some of the burials as there are no names on some of the crosses.

The village of Marville is a very strange place. It is almost entirely made up of ruined 16th and 17th century buildings - but still lived in. What happened and why, I have no idea. They just seem to have been abandoned, and clearly at least a century ago.

There is a Post Office, a butcher's shop and a hotel/restaurant. Well worth a visit - the walls around can still be traced.

From Verdun head north to Montmedy (and if you haven't been there; hang your head in shame), and then head west.

#55 depaor01

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 03:52 PM

I know this cemetery well. It is supposed to be the oldest in France. The ossuary, which is at the entrance dates from the Spanish Netherlands time.

This and the village of Marville across the valley deserve a visit.


I hadn't heard of the place til now. Had to Google it. Beautifully macabre place, and a shame about the thefts. I hope the perpetrators are haunted by the stolen...

#56 Christina Holstein

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 08:19 PM

As far as I remember, Marville was destroyed during the 30 Years' War and the village was rebuilt using the old stones, no doubt over many years. It was then very badly damaged again during August 1914. There are lots of wonderful old carvings and other details in the current houses. It's an interesting place.

I think the babies in the cemetery died in a measles epidemic when the nearby airfield was in Canadian hands. There was an article about it some years ago the the Républicain Lorrain.

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#57 hazel clark

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 08:54 PM

I hope the soldiers haunt the perpetrators!
HC.

Hello,

very sad news yesterday, according to France3 Lorraine:

The Douaumont Ossuary was desecrated, skulls have been stolen.
According to the prosecution of Verdun, skulls and bones of unknown soldiers, German and French, may have been stolen in the Ossuary at Douaumont (Meuse) on the night of Wednesday, March 7, 2012 to Thursday, March 8, 2012.
the ossuary is under renovation, thieves have used a blowtorch to melt the windows glass and to enter into the ossuary.
The last desecration at Douaumont was in 1966.

I can't find words to express what I feel.
:devilgrin:

Sly



#58 onlyme

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 07:48 PM

I visited Verdun about 7 years ago. And used battleground europe and before endeavours fade books. The size of the cemetry alone holding 15,000 graves is huge. The addition of another 130,000 + graves (soldiers remains in ossuary) would i guess have been impossible to achieve I imagine. I think there was a original ossuary in the early 20's when battlefields were being cleared prior to the present memorial so i guess they were following on from the initial idea of how the soldiers were being remembered. From a shock point of view and a deterent to further wars it works for me, showing the waste of life. Germans and French mixed. I looked in a few of the windows and that was enough for me. So i guess despite the differences of opinion on remebering the dead and the scale of sacrifice the memorial was successful in my mind as i still remember it clearly. Much more shockingly memorable than the beautifully maintained CWGC cemeteries that i visit to pay my respects.

#59 Ken Santa Fe

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 04:30 AM

From Verdun head north to Montmedy (and if you haven't been there; hang your head in shame), and then head west.

Healdav do you mean if you haven't been to Verdun or Montmedy?

#60 healdav

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 07:33 AM

Healdav do you mean if you haven't been to Verdun or Montmedy?


Both, but as I gave directions from Verdun to Montmedy, in this case, Montmedy.

By the way, I was at Verdun yesterday and the whole ossuary and the cemetery are under major renovations, presumably for 2014. I couldn't even get into the ossuary due to the scaffolding.

#61 sassoon

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 12:47 AM

I was in Verdun last summer and they were also doing renovations then.

Verdun is such a mournful, meaningful place to visit. There was such horrific suffering there and I can't imagine how anyone - no matter what viewpoint you're coming from - would try to belittle that by desecrating the memory of all those who lost their lives there. So very sad how human beings can be so cruel.

#62 healdav

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 01:06 PM

I was in Verdun last summer and they were also doing renovations then.

Verdun is such a mournful, meaningful place to visit. There was such horrific suffering there and I can't imagine how anyone - no matter what viewpoint you're coming from - would try to belittle that by desecrating the memory of all those who lost their lives there. So very sad how human beings can be so cruel.


Yes, the renovations are enormous, including the whole of the cemetery opposite the Ossuary. However, until a few weeks ago you could go into the Ossuary as usual through the front doors. Now you can't (or couldn't).

#63 Trelawney

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 04:37 AM

The different ways in which war dead are remembered reflects national cultural and religious traditions. For those who are interested, I wrote an article (published in Stand To! No.90, Dec2010/Jan2011) which contrasts and compares rituals of commemoration, with particular reference to Thiepval and Douaumont. The religious commemorative associations with human bones is pervasive in many, if not all, societies. It is only recently that Anglo-Saxon sensibilities are a little shocked to see bones on display.
C.


All who are concerned about the subject discussed in this thread should read the article referenced here: Christopher Nash's "Great War Memorials: Memory and
National Identity," in "The Poppy" (September 2010). Nash presents an admirably informed and balanced discussion that addresses many of the issues
that have been raised by the contributors to the thread. Nash provides a clarifying perspective as follows:
"In contrast, many parts of Britain preferred a more utilitarian form of commemoration...The most common local British memprial is often in the form of a
simple Celtic cross. The inclusion of an ossuary as part of a war memorial provides the greatest contrast between British and French attempts to link
memory of conflict with individual identity. Being confronted today by human bones on display comes as a shock to the sensibilities of many Anglo-Saxons,
yet religious commemorative associations with human bones is pervasive in all societies. After the war in France, the Roman Catholic Church
actively promoted the creation of ossuaries..."

Nash provides an enlightening cross-cultural vantage to better understand such differences in values affecting memorials, commemoration,
and reliquaries.

Trelawney

#64 CROONAERT

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 11:34 AM

After the war in France, the Roman Catholic Church actively promoted the creation of ossuaries..."


As they also did in the decades following the 1870-71 War (there were actually more purposely built ossuaries following this war than there was following 1914-18)

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#65 CROONAERT

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 11:55 AM

... It is only recently that Anglo-Saxon sensibilities are a little shocked to see bones on display.


Though the invading German Army of 1914 also showed some of this trait. Take , for example, the ossuary at Bazeilles near Sedan that contains the remains of German and French soldiers who fell in action on and just after 31st August and 1st September 1870. When constructed, the remains of both sides were in full view (seperated into vaults on opposite sides of the ossuary), but the Germans who arrived in August 1914 found this distasteful and constructed several stone sarcophagi decorated with a symbolic 1870 Iron Cross to house the German remains. The French remains - possibly as a mark of respect to their culture - were left as they were.

Below are two photographs I took a couple of years ago depicting the two sides of the ossuary just for illustration (the French side had been 'tidied up' prior to my 2009 visit ... first time I went there (late '80s/early '90s) the bodies - some still clothed in the ragged remains of uniforms with boots, spats etc (even fingernails, hair and mummified skin on some - which, I must admit, I found a little haunting) - were lying complete with heads to the wall, feet to the centre like some sort of macabre, abandoned hospital ward!)...

Dave (Douaumont certainly lost some (most?) of its shock value to me after I visited Bazeilles for the first time!)

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#66 THE SHINY SEVENTH

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 03:00 PM

Very interesting Dave, thanks for posting. Certainly is more shocking than Douaumont.
Regards,
Sean.

#67 CROONAERT

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 05:24 PM

Certainly is more shocking than Douaumont.


And it certainly makes me wonder about what view greeted the Germans in 1914 - just 44 years after the events - when I consider the state of preservation of a few of the bodies that I saw 120 years after!

Another of the vaults altered by the Germans is shown below. This one was particularly interesting in that it houses some of the original grave markers from one of the cemeteries that was cleared...

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#68 SPOF

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 08:23 PM

Dave

Thank you for the posts. Very informative and atmospheric. I can't imagine what it would look and feel like standing there (even the "sanitised" version)

Glen

#69 RLacroix

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 09:31 AM

Horrible... and chances are, knowing what I know, it was probably someone doing it on a dare or a thrill. It's usually teenagers, and they're usually doing it to stoke their delusions of immortality.

I doubt it was anything more evil than that, though I would certainly call desecrating a grave a kind of evil.

#70 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 10:05 AM

Though the invading German Army of 1914 also showed some of this trait.
Dave


Dave, are you certain it was 1914 ? I thought in WW1 the Germans were happy to leave it as it was; it was only during the occupation of WW2 that their sensibilities changed ?

PS. What Dave's photos don't show is that in the French side you can make out bits of uniform etc attached to some of the bones; rather than finding it shocking, I find a very moving memorial, a direct link to the events of 140+ years ago