Here Where Nazis Lay Colin Hulvalchick Contemporary Blog

The sites of Normandy have stuck with me the most on this trip, whether it be the beaches where my great grandfather walked or the shell craters of Point Du Hoc. But the cemeteries have held firm in my mind the most.  The reverence on display at the sites of U.S., British, and even German cemeteries is evident in the care of the grounds and preservation of the graves showing these mens’ sacrifice.  The German cemetery was a sight that I didn’t know I needed to witness when coming to Normandy, but I came to understand its significance.  My colleagues and I were conflicted, as Christian crosses and holy iconography put a bad taste in our mouths.  There was a mound in the center of the cemetery, containing the unidentifiable remains of around 200 Nazi soldiers. Its height loomed over all the other graves.  The view was sobering as the scale of the cemetery became tangible. And it was unnerving standing on what is essentially a mass grave of Nazis who fought for the subjugation and murder of human beings, yet still I pitied them.  The majority of them were young 16–18-year children who only knew Nazism.  This is not an excuse for their actions, but we should acknowledge the awful circumstances these children were raised under.




The cluster of five crosses centered in each row of graves caught me off guard, as I see this imagery as a sign of honoring the dead. This seemingly questionable choice is explained away by the cemetery’s architect as them being German crosses and not Christian ones. These images to me are all well and good for honoring the dead, however the iconography is not distinctive enough for visitors to understand the difference between German and Christian crosses. I see this as problematic in the context of a Nazi cemetery. The architect had reasons for these choices of symbology, but I feel it tows the line too close to other sites such as the U.S. cemetery as it verges on reverence for the fallen.  The German cemetery should be a place to bury the dead as we humans respect to all who die, but I remain uneasy with the veneration of soldiers who fought for the worst of causes.