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14 Nov, 2022 19:10

Germans to segregate war dead

Ukrainians should be set apart from Russians and other Soviet soldiers, the war grave commission says
Germans to segregate war dead

A German association tending to the graves of the war dead has said it wants to start segregating the Ukrainians from Russians and other nationalities of the former Soviet Union, starting with the cemeteries in Hamburg. 

“We’re starting to differentiate,” Christian Luebcke, managing director of the Hamburg chapter of the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) told the German news agency DPA. His admission came on Sunday, the “day of national mourning” on which people across Germany honor those who died in war.

There are approximately 1,400 Soviet war dead buried in Hamburg cemeteries, Luebcke estimated. German and Western Allies note their nationality only as “Russian” or “Soviet,” but he said the VDK would try to distinguish Ukrainians by their birthplace, such as Kiev. 

As one of the reasons for segregating the war dead, Luebcke brought up the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the Russian “Immortal Regiment” commemorations, which he said had “nationalistic and partly historical revisionist undertones.” 

The “Immortal Regiment” is a civil society initiative launched in 2011, as the number of living veterans of the Second World War dwindled due to age. Since 2012, many Russians have commemorated their ancestors’ triumph over Nazi Germany by carrying their portraits in the May 9 Victory Day parades. The initiative is supported by the government in Moscow.

Soviet war dead account for a fraction of the 62,000 graves from both world wars in Hamburg. Some 652 prisoners of war and forced laborers are buried in Bergedorf. Two thirds of the 524 buried at Ohlsdorf are POWs from the Sandbostel camp. The rest are scattered throughout ten other war cemeteries in Hamburg. Another 77 graves on the island of Hahnoefersand belong to POWs from the Russian Empire in the First World war, who died of various diseases in German captivity.

Even as Luebcke spoke of segregating Ukrainian graves, deputy mayor Katharina Fegebank delivered a somewhat different message in her commemoration speech.

“It is our task today and every day to think of these and millions of people who have fallen victim to war and violence. We stand together here to stand up for peace and freedom, against racism, anti-Semitism and exclusion,” she told the people gathered at the town hall on Sunday, according to DPA.