A controversial plan to bury German World War II soldiers in the Czech town of Cheb is now becoming a reality.
The German army played a losing battle in the final stages of WWII
A German association has started burying in a Czech cemetery the remains of 5,500 German soldiers and civilians killed during World War II. The remains were discovered over the last 10 years.
Fritz Kirchmeier, spokesman for the German war graves authority VDK, said 330 soldiers would be buried on Wednesday, Nov. 12, in the cemetery in the western Czech town of Cheb.
The rest, including 450 civilians, would be buried over the next two or three weeks, he added.
The Czech capital, Prague, was the last major city to be liberated in WWII
The bodies were found at sites across the Czech Republic by the VDK, which takes responsibility for about two million German graves from the two world wars in 830 cemeteries throughout Europe.
According to Kirchmeier, about 300 living families related to the dead soldiers have been identified. A ceremony on Wednesday was to be attended by some 20 officials, while the relatives would be invited at a later date.
"Next year, we want to build the paths and fences and a cross, and we want to put the names on the stones," Kirchmeier said, adding that the cemetery wouldn't be inaugurated until 2010.
"The German side is in charge of the project, and they are also paying all costs," said Martina Kuzelova, spokeswoman for the town.
Concern over visits from extremists
The May decision to build the cemetery was hailed by some, both Germans and Czechs, as a symbolic act of reconciliation.
However, critics of the decision expressed concern that the town of Cheb would become a pilgrimage site for German and Czech neo-Nazis.
The Czech Republic was one of the last battlegrounds in World War II. Hitler's futile "final victory" strategy sent thousands of German troops to their deaths, although the outcome of the war had already been decided.