The Neuville-Saint-Vaast German War Cemetery was established at the end of the Great War, between 1919 and 1923, by the French authorities. The Treaty of Versailles of 1919 provided for the shared maintenance of war cemeteries and in 1922 France granted her 'ex-enemies' who fell on her soil the right in perpetuity to a grave.
Like many German war cemeteries it is a 'concentration cemetery' with soldiers buried 4 to a grave. It is the largest German war cemetery in France and is huge even by war cemetery standards. Most visitors find it a very sad and brooding place, with a very different atmosphere to the immaculate cemeteries of the victorious allied forces. It is the final resting place for 44,833 German soldiers of which 8,040 were never identified and buried in a common grave in the centre of the cemetery. (See monument in the photographs)
Also of interest in the cemetery is the small number of Jewish headstones. The bodies were originally laid to rest in small cemeteries close to the Western Front, spread over more than 110 villages in Pas-de-Calais but later after the war they were all moved to this cemetery. Most of the soldiers died in the intense fighting in Artois, on Lorette Spur (1914-1915) and on Vimy Ridge (1917-1918). It is well worth a visit to reflect on the futility of all wars and how it affected all sides.
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