A research project on the WW I German cemeteries in Belgium
This is the most complete, on-line, inventory of all the German World War I cemeteries and field graves in Belgium.
Over 2200 locations can be found on my website so far.
In the time to come more additions will happen, as we still find more and more sites every month.
These 2200 locations are just the top of the Iceberg. We need to mention that among these “locations” very often is mentioned that these were scattered graves found on the territory of a village. In these cases we don’t even have an idea about how many locations it actually concerns.
Just to give you an idea, in the Ypres area there were these post war numbers :
Ypres (mentioned in the original list of the Volksbund) 850 field graves
There are also two books, preserved at the RAM which mention another 459 field graves in the Northern area of Ypres and 753 field graves in the Southern area of Ypres.
It is impossible to know the number of locations…
But that is not where it ends, that is just the start of it, if you look at the inventory of West-Flanders, you will see that enormous amounts of field graves were found in some areas and moved in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Some examples with numbers over 100 field graves scattered over the territory of a village that are given as one entry in the Volksbund list :
Langemark : 474
Lombardsijde : 250
Merkem : 349
Mesen : 252
Neuve Eglise : 302
Pervijze : 112 and another 217
Poelkapelle : 140, 302, 250, 521 (and there are also 5 mass graves still missing to this day…)
Stuivekenskerke : 110
Warneton : 685 and another 140
Wijtschate : 200
This makes it clear to everybody that when we mention, over 2200 locations, it actually also tells us we have actually no idea about how many locations it concerned just after the war, and unfortunately, we will never know, as most of the archives on the matter were destroyed.
It may very well have been 3000 or 4000 locations where graves were found, just to give you an idea…
It also gives us a little bit of an idea of the enormous task that all war graves services were facing at the end of this war that was to end all wars… But didn’t !
Very important :
The cemeteries are in an inventory by province, that is, the situation from the Belgian provinces before World War II.
You will see that the cemeteries that still were here just before World War II can be found under the part “Situation in 1939”
The ones that remain upto today, can be found under “Situation today”
Most people have the very wrong idea that only 4 German WW I cemeteries remain in Belgium, Hooglede, Langemark, Menen Wald and Vladslo.
Many think as well that Lommel has only WW II burials, which is not correct.
Even in Evere near Brussel there’s a German WW I military cemetery where’s also buried a 6 year old German girl.
In the French speaking part of Belgium several German cemeteries are still there.
If in doubt, and you do not find a location, use the search possibility on all pages in the right corner, with the exception of this page.
So far, nobody has or had ever tried to make a real complete list of the German cemeteries, partially because this is almost impossible, partially because everybody was convinced that the material was lost.
Fact is, and this may sound curious, that most nationalities were not interested in the war graves, as there were other priorities for many of them. The Commonwealth was an exception in this.
By the time other nationalities started to make inventories, much information was already lost. We are talking of the period 1922-1923, 1925 and even the 1930’s.
For the Germans it was even more difficult, as they had to ask permission to be able to do anything on the matter in for example Belgium, but also other countries.
What was even more, there was no maintenance done, and in some cases many names could not more be read on the mostly wooden crosses, or only partially, mistakes were made in identification, dates, etc.
It should not surprise us that due to this, some 13000 war graves are lost in Belgium.
A list is also included of those cemeteries that were lost after the Great War. A number of them were found back meanwhile and are included in the regular list.
The cemetery at Leffinge, West-Flanders, shortly before or after WW II
Fabrication of grave stones at Mesen during the war
Due to the many questions I’m asked a few facts about the history of the German war graves in Belgium :
– First concentrations of German war graves happened in 1915 already
– Most of this work ended previously to and due to 3rd Ypres battle
– Many field graves were moved to these, but thousands remained on the battlefield
– In 1916 the Gräberverwaltung (tombs management) was created, each German Army had one
– After 3rd Ypres battle the Germans made their new cemeteries more to the rear areas if possible.
– After the war, the Germans handed over plans and inventories of cemeteries to the Belgians/Allies
– Reburials were done by the Allies also from German graves. Zonnebeke 103bis cemetery was a new cemetery started by the Commonwealth to give an example.
– 16 December 1919 the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge is created
– In 1926 there’s an agreement between Belgium and Germany and from this moment on they can work in Belgium on their cemeteries. Soon after this, and especially from 1927 on reburials and concentration of burials is done, but the lack of funding to do so is a problem.
– During WW II nothing really happened, and after the war, German war graves were again the responsibilty of the Belgians.
– In 1953 there was an agreement between the Volksbund and Belgium to give the German war dead to them and make them responsible for them.
If you want to know more about it, there’s an excellent piece on this written by Jan Vancoillie :
Note that we support the work of the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V
If you have any additional information on the cemeteries, please contact us !
This site is dedicated to all the men and women who lost their lives in World War I
Copyright 2017-2018-2019-2020-2021 Johan R. Ryheul