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Lietuvos reformacijos istorijos ir kultūros draugija
Evangelical reformed church sheltered the remains of German soldiers
Saturday, 20 February 2010 09:44


karstaiArtūras Navickas     muge
Evangelical reformed church sheltered the remains of German soldiers.
For about two months Kėdainiai Evangelical reformed church rectory sheltered the remains of 150 German soldiers killed during the Second World War. In Lithuania the search for the remains of German soldiers has been on for about 10 years. This year the largest excavations were carried out in Taurage and Jurbarkas districts.

Order despite the war. Germans are renowned for their order. The killed were buried in accordance with strict rules even though there was a war. Everything used to be described thoroughly, i.e. the features of the selected graves which helped to find them, the burial sequence of the killed, the names and surnames and other key data, e.g. height.

In addition, every German soldier was buried with an individual metal token which contained his personal data. Even now more than half a century after the war it is possible to identify nearly all buried in such graves.

What happened some years ago in Krakes
Several years ago the author of this publication had the opportunity to witness the search for the remains of German soldiers in Krakes. According to the German archives brought by the expedition the soldiers were buried in the Krakes churchyard, a certain number of metres from the fence. The excavators discovered the site easily. The leader of the expedition Manfredas Drobė said that he had encountered only one unexpected thing, i.e. the individual metal tokens of some of the buried were put into wallets together with the metal coins. During the decades the soil and humidity did their job. The different kinds of metal of the tokens and the coins had reacted and after the excavation they were just crumbling in the hands.

However, the archives showed that one or another soldier was buried closest to the fence and then all the others were listed. This sequence helped to identify the excavated soldiers. Besides, the good condition of the tokens found with the buried helped to make the identification more accurate. If necessary the skeletal size was measured and other features were checked so the identification of the buried individuals was completely reliable.

Not everybody was identified
This year similar expeditions were arranged in several places in Lithuania, the largest ones in Jurbarkas and Taurage districts. For some time the military hospital of the German army was located in the village of Lapgiriai in Jurbarkas district. The hospital failed to cure about 80 wounded soldiers and they were buried nearby.

The identification of individuals buried in Lapgiriai was completely reliable as Germans themselves buried them. The situation was much more complicated in the village of Visbutai in Taurage district. There from 1945 to 1947 the Soviet army had established a concentration camp for German captives. The Soviet concentration camp cannot be compared to the military hospital of the German army. The killed were buried in the gravel trenches without any clothes or tokens. Now it is hardly possible to identify the individuals. One can count only on coincidences. The archives show that about 100 German soldiers were buried in Visbutai. During the excavations people managed to find the remains of a half of them.

It was also hard to identify 14 soldiers buried in Kesciai village in Taurage district since after the sudden retreat of the German army the killed were buried by the locals.

"Volksbund" express their gratitude to the community

The German national organisation "Volksbund" carry out the search all over the world for the remains of the German soldiers killed during the Second World War and are responsible for their proper reburial.

According to the representatives of "Volksbund" they expect to carry out this work in Lithuania till the year 2016. A part of the necessary costs is covered by private persons and the rest of the costs is alloted by the German state. The Germans are supported by the specialists of the soldiers‘ graves maintenance and care under the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. The remains of all the excavated individuals are thoroughly examined by exhumators. They either identify the individuals or state that it is impossible to do that. In such a case the remains are put in special coffins and carried to the special cemetery for reburial.

In Lithuania there are 2 cemeteries for German soldiers, i.e. in Kaunas ( Aukštieji Šančiai) and in Klaipeda. Besides, a part of the identified remains is taken and reburied by the family.
It has been mentioned that this summer the "Volksbund" expeditions were arranged in some places in Lithuania. The remains of all discovered German soldiers had to be carried to one place and Kedainiai which is the geographical centre of Lithuania was a perfect location for that purpose. This month all the remains from Kedainiai were taken to Aukštieji Šančiai cemetery in Kaunas and reburied there.

During the fair in Kedainiai the representative of "Volksbund" Tomas Sokas said that their grateful thanks go to the community of Kedainiai Evangelical reformed church for their help to carry out this mission.