German War Dead to Be Reburied in Czech Graves | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 27.05.2008
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German War Dead to Be Reburied in Czech Graves

Germany's war graves authority has signed an agreement for the remains of some 4,000 German soldiers killed in former Czechoslovakia during World War II to be buried at a special site in the western Czech town of Cheb.

German military cemetery in Russia

The remains are currently in temporary storage

The head of the German war graves authority, Reinhard Fuehrer, and the mayor of Cheb, Jan Svoboda, agreed on Monday, May 26, to build a military cemetery for the German war dead next to the town graveyard.

The agreement was hailed by both sides as an act of reconciliation.

Fuehrer's organization has said it will provide one million euros ($1.6 million) for renovations to the town cemetery, in addition to financing the neighboring portion for the German soldiers.

"Work on the graveyard for the remains of around 4,000 German soldiers will start this year, but most of the work will be carried out next year," town spokesman, Tomas Ivanic, told AFP news agency.

Remains discovered last year

The soldiers' remains have been held at a military training base since they were uncovered by Czech media in March 2006 at a vacant factory in the northern city of Usti Nad Labem. Czech President Vaclav Klaus ordered that the remains be temporarily stored at the base until a permanent solution could be found.

Critics of the decision to transfer the bodies to Cheb expressed concern that the town would become a pilgrimage site for German and Czech neo-Nazis.

The remains of the soldiers to be reburied there were discovered at various locations in the Czech Republic, including some mass graves, the German war graves authority has said.

Soldiers fell in final days

An estimated 178,000 German soldiers died during World War II in former Czechoslovakia fighting Soviet forces from the north and east and US forces from the West.

Fighting in former Czechoslovakia remained heavy in the final weeks of the war as Hitler carried out his futile "final victory" strategy, sending thousands of German troops to their deaths although the outcome of the war had already been decided. Prague was the last major city to be liberated by the Allies.

Other German soldiers who fell in Czechoslovakia have already been buried in the existing 10 military cemeteries around the country.

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