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LA CAMBE: GERMAN CEMETERY

Friday 7 February 2003

La Cambe was an American cemetery before the cemetery at Colleville / Omaha beach was made. The cemetery was first set up after the battle for Isigny. An American field hospital was sited at La Cambe.

The atmosphere of this German cemetery contrasts with that of the cemetery at Colleville. At Colleville white marble crosses in perfect alinement give an air of brightness. Here the cemetery has a few dark granite saxon crosses.

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TUMULUS AND CROSSES

In the centre a tumulus ossuaire surmounted by a large saxon cross with a statue on each side.

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STATUE ON TUMULUS

A man and a woman mourning their lost family.
A very narrow entrance takes you through a monumental wall.

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ENTRANCE

This represents the fact that death is lonely and you go one by one. There is a plaque 10in x 10in on the ground for each grave. Each grave has two bodies. The cemetery has several groups of Five saxon crosses in a line, the centre cross slightly bigger than the others. This is emblematic of the way the German soldiers were buried. The Germans were retreating in Normandy and their dead were buried by the allies. Allied soldiers didn’t take the same care as for their comrades. In one grave for german soldiers there were five bodies found with five crosses stuck in the mound. Thence the symbol of the five crosses.
In the american cemetery there are 307 unknown graves out of 9387. Here there are 13000 out of 21000 graves. There are two reasons for this difference. One is that the American soldier had two dog tags. One to stay with the body and the other for counting. The Germans didn’t. They also suffered greatly from artillery fire and aerial bombing. Bodies were often unrecognisable.
On the unknown graves one can sometimes find a small metal plaque, on a spike, with a name on. This means that the name of the soldier has recently been discovered.

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NAME PLAQUE

An association researching the names of the lost men and correlating with objects found and what was known of the lost men somtimes finds names even after nearly 60 years.
Standard wreaths put on graves by German visitors. There are also flowers put on certain graves. These are usually put there by French families. Many of the German soldiers in Normandy didn’t want to be here. Many of them weren’t even German. Some of these men tried to get on with the locals and live out their time before they could get back home. When they got killed they were remembered by the families that had got to know them as a human being rather than the invader.

Forum posts

  • Gentlemen: I visited your cemetery in July 2007. I felt that it was a very plesent resting place for the fallen German solders.

    I’d always questioned why there were five crosses at each grave site. Your site answered that question. Next question. Why is the center cross larger??
    I wished I had more time to spend at your cemetery.

    V.Kretsinger
    Calif, USA

  • It is my understanding that a lot of these soldiers’ remains were not repatrioted to Germany because the Russians would not allow them into East Germany. Among the notable Germans buried here is CPT Michael Wittman, a tank commander who fought on the Eastern Front. He was experienced and apparently one of Germany’s best tank tacticians. Lucky for us, he followed Hitler’s orders and did not move his units toward Omaha Beach until it was too late.
    He was KIA on 8.8.64. I found his marker by accident a few years ago...when I returned last year, for some reason, I could not remember where it was.
    I understand that during the summers, busloads of German civilians, including students, come to this cemetery to help clean it up.
    There is one tree planted for each of the over 22,000 soldiers buried here.

    • Wittman’s 101st heavy panzer Batl was at Beauvais, over a hundred miles from the landing zone. They started moving on the 7th and it took 5 days to get to the area.
      About twice a year a detachment of german soldiers come to help with the upkeep, Not exactly busloads.
      The cemetery has about 170000 visitors a year compared with 1.5 million at the American cemetery.
      There are a lot of trees, planted along the entry road, which are sponsored to help with the finance of the cemetery but not 21000.

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