Ohlsdorf Cemetery – Soldiers’ graves and graves of victims of Nazi tyranny
The ‘German Soldiers’ Graves’ complex is centrally located in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery. It holds 3,500 graves for people who died in World War I, mostly members of the German military, but also some prisoners of war. More than 3,000 additional graves were created in World War II for soldiers and members of Nazi organisations.
Victims of Nazi tyranny
When the cemetery administration moved some graves in the 1950s and 1960s, 1,000 victims of Nazi persecution who had the right of eternal rest under the German Federal Graves Law were reinterred in the burial ground. They included people sentenced to death under the Nazi judicial system, murdered Jewish prisoners of war from the Soviet Union, concentration camp prisoners, the children of female forced labourers and the victims of air raids and ‘euthanasia’ crimes.
A rotunda was erected in 1953 as a ‘Memorial to the Fallen of World War II’, where wreaths were laid on the German national day of mourning to commemorate soldiers who had died. But for decades there was no reference in the cemetery to any other groups of victims. This led to public protests in recent years. In particular, a local history group known as the Willi-Bredel-Gesellschaft repeatedly drew public attention to the fact that Wehrmacht deserters who had been executed were also buried there. In July 2012, the German War Graves Commission formed a ‘round table’ to ‘discuss the future approach to the cemetery’. This round table was made up of the War Graves Commission, the Willi-Bredel-Gesellschaft, the State Centre for Civic Education, the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime – League of Anti-Fascists, the Friends of Ohlsdorf Cemetery, the Grüner Saal cultural association and Hamburger Friedhöfe (the municipal organisation responsible for managing the Ohlsdorf Cemetery).
Their first step in 2016 entailed renaming the former Kriegerehrenallee (‘Soldiers’ Avenue of Honour’), which is now known as Ida-Ehre-Allee. After extensive research, the round table members published a book in 2021: Soldier – Forced Labourer – Deserter: The ‘soldiers’ graves’ in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery. The round table additionally resolved to erect information panels at the rotunda and in various parts of the burial ground that explain the fates of the people buried there.