Gardelegen Military Cemetery

Military Cemetery near the town of Gardelegen

On the night of Friday the 13th of April, 1945, in a barn just north of the town of Gardelegen, 1016 concentration camp prisoners were murdered by German soldiers and the citizens of the town. Early the next morning, the citizens of the town buried the bodies in mass graves, but in the late afternoon the American 102nd Infantry Division arrived in Gardelegen and discovered the horrible crime.

On April 21, 1945, General Frank Keating ordered the men of the town to bury the exhumed bodies in individual graves in a military cemetery near the barn. On July 1, 1945, the town and the cemetery were turned over to the Soviet Union and Gardelegen became part of Communist East Germany.

Sign at the Military Cemetery

The cemetery was laid out under the direction of Lt. Col. William R. Douglas. The burial of the bodies was completed in four days and on April 25, 1945, a formal ceremony was carried out by American soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Division who fired the traditional 21-gun salute over the graves. Lt. Col. Douglas directed that a commemorative sign be put up in 1945. The sign was taken down in 1947 by the East German government; the present sign is a copy which was erected in 1990.

Sign in English and German

GARDELEGEN MILITARY CEMETERY - Here lie the Allied Prisoners of War who were murdered by their captors. They were buried by citizens of Gardelegen who are charged with responsibility that graves are forever kept as green as the memory of these unfortunates will be kept in the hearts of freedom-loving men everywhere. Established under supervision of `102d Infantry Division United States Army. Vandalism will be punished by maximum penalties under laws of military government. Frank A. Keating, Major General U.S.A. Commanding.

View of the cemetery in May 2002

The graves are laid out in two sections with a wide path between them, shown on the right in the photo above. Each section is further divided into two parts. This photo shows the cemetery from the rear. The barn where the victims were burned to death is not visible; it is behind the trees on the left side.