Differences between D-Day cemeteries, Erik Johnson

Difference between cemeteries

Erik Johnson


One of the many things we did in Bayeux was visit the German, British and American cemeteries. There were many differences not just ideologically and politically, but aesthetically. I’d like to highlight these differences through comparisons of the stones, what was on them, and their environment.

German D-Day cemetery from the top of the central mound

Firstly, the German cemetery had much smaller stones. With each at about one by one feet, they were shaped simply as squares with the corners taken out. Perhaps representing a thicker version of the iron cross. There were rows of crosses for about every four rows of gravestones. They protruded from the ground but didn’t seem to be marked in any way. The most interesting thing about the cemetery was definitely the large hill in the middle. There were a large number of unidentified bodies buried within, with a large statue on top that seemed to depict Mary and Joseph next to the cross.

Stones at the British D-Day cemetery

On the contrary, the British cemetery had clean white stones. They also protruded from the ground, unlike the German stones that were flat against the mowed grass. They also have different shapes based on nationality and religion. From what I observed the British stones were more generic with a rectangular body, along with polish stones with a little more of a pointed top. There were many other nationalities, including Czech French and most likely Indian. It seems like there was a lot of thought put into the individual people, at least regarding their beliefs and culture. This was the only cemetery to do this, as the British empire encapsulated many cultures at the time. There were also two structures towards the front of the cemetery that seemed to be some sort of memorials. Each gravestone also had small wooden crosses put in front of them with a poppy flower drawn in the middle. I was happy to see that the soldiers who were not Christian simply had the horizontal part of the cross taken off, so the poppy seed was the only thing symbolized.

Me and Emma walking back from putting an Ohio state flag next to the grave of Robert Forest

In the American cemetery, while the stones were clean and protruded, they where mostly Christian crosses. This was the case for most stones, only differing with the occasional Star of David. This cemetery was the largest by far. With such a large number of soldiers numbered by rows and columns it felt much less human than even the German cemetery. Though, it did have a museum dedicated to the soldiers, along with a chapel, and large memorial that took up most of the horizon. I believe the chapel was for any religion, as I saw a golden cross Though a stained-glass window depicting the Star of David. This was quite thoughtful to me, and helped symbolized a somewhat diverse culture. Though, I think it only partially made up for dehumanizing nature of the graves themselves.




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