Friday, 17 August 2012

Waldfriedhof Berlin-Zehlendorf and the Italian War Cemetery

My last post was about the British War Cemetery in Berlin. Just to show I am not partisan, this post is about the Italian War Cemetery in Zehlendorf. It is located on Potsdamer Chaussee in the far SW of Berlin, and to get there we started at S-Bahn Nikolassee, surely one of the most idyllic stations in Berlin (p.s. click for bigger), and hopped on a bus.

S-Bahnhof Nikolassee
The Italian War Cemetery is located in Waldfriedhof Zehlendorf, a vast cemetery with the final resting places of many famous German politicians, actors, film-directors, and singers. It is a bit daunting to orientate yourself, but there is a grave plan by the Potsdamer Chaussee entrance helpfully showing where the worthies are buried. What the plan doesn't show you though, is where the Italian War Cemetery is, so you might have to wander around until you come across a sign with an arrow pointing to the Cimitero Militare Italiano.

Entrance to the Italian War Cemetery, Berlin-Zehlendorf
This part of the Waldfriedhof was built between 1955-57 (though the last two fallen were finally interred in 1964) and contains the bodies of 1,179 Italian victims of WWII, 113 of whom are unknown.

The majority of the people buried here (80%) were Italian soldiers captured by the German Army after the surrender of Italy on 8th September 1943. The remainder, which includes 22 women, were civilian workers who perished as a result of either aerial bombardment, hunger and disease, worked to death in German labour camps, or who were simply murdered for being Italian. Included are 127 POW's murdered at the end of the war in Treuenbrietzen, Brandenburg, a satellite concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. (Treuenbrietzen is also darkly known for the massacre and rape of over a thousand German civilians by the Soviet Army when they came across the camp and town on 21 April 1945 see here for example).

There is a quite well executed memorial to the Italians buried here, with the names of the fallen written on brass plaques on plinths circling around a bronze wreath.

The force behind getting this War Cemetery built was Monsignor Luigi Fraccari, who was a missionary in Berlin for 35 years from 1944. The cemetery was inaugurated on 21st December 1958.

Whilst at the Waldfriedhof, it was interesting looking at the graves of other people buried there. For example,  Willy Brandt, Chancellor of West Germany:

Willy Brandt's grave
Close by is also the grave of Ernst Reuter, who was the mayor of West Berlin from 1948 to 1953 during the Cold War:

Grave of Ernst Reuter
The final resting place of another prominent politician is also here, that of Jakob Kaiser:

Grave of Jakob Kaiser
But as I said earlier, not only West German politicians are buried here, but also for example actress and singer-songwriter Hildergard Knef:

Grave of Hildegard Knef
There is also a film director who I'd never heard of, Ulrich Schamoni, but he has a pretty grave:

Grave of Ulrich Schamoni
It might seem a bit ghoulish wandering about graveyards, but it is an interesting way to get acquainted with German history and past personalities. They never have anywhere to get a cup of tea though.

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