MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna)."We have never taken revenge on the dead, everyone will be committed to the ground. This has always been that way and it is going to be that way", said military writer and poet Konstantin Simonov in his address to the residents of liberated Sevastopol in 1944, who refused to bury German soldiers.
After his speech many changed their mind.
Right after the celebrations of the Victory Day work will get underway at the village of Besedino, Kursk Region, to bury several thousand German officers and men in what will become the biggest German cemetery in Russia. Today the Sologub cemetery for 80,000 soldiers, located some 70 kilometers away from St. Petersburg (Leningrad ), is the largest German burial in Russia.
The Besedino cemetery will primarily accommodate German soldiers who died in the battle for Kursk, that took place from the 5th of July to the 23rd of August 1943. The Wehrmacht had amassed 50 divisions, including 16 tank units, for its operation Citadel. Their task was to regain the strategic initiative lost at Stalingrad but the Soviet troops rebuffed this biggest German offensive in the course of frenzied fighting.
The biggest tank battle, now described in all war manuals, took place on the 12th of July in the area of the Prokhorovka village. All in all, 1,200 tanks and self-propelled guns took part in it on both sides. Heinrich Boll has a story about a wounded German officer who could only recall one word to describe the horror: "Prokhorovka, Prokhorovka..."
A living participant in this battle, 83 year-old Muscovite Alexander Voloshchenko recalls that "the land in Prokhorovka turned into a bloody mess covered with melted iron. Up to 200,000 men perished in the fighting on both sides. When it was over funeral teams started their tragic missions. They buried "their own" in fraternal graves with all the befitting honors. German corpses were thrown into holes and covered with soil where tall weeds would grow very fast.
Ancient Greeks used to say that "the wounds of the winners heal quicker than those of the losers". But this does not apply to moral traumas. The Russians perceived the Germans as the worst enemy for a long time. Not a single Russian family was unscathed by the past war. The pain wouldn't go away and Russians bluntly refused to bury dead Germans. Let wild beasts gnaw at their bones! It took time for the Christian commandment on forgiveness and everyone's right to a burial to strike root in the wounded Russian soul.
The team of the Kursk Governor Alexander Mikhailov had to work hard in the name of this goodwill gesture. They tried to persuade their compatriots with the following words: "Obviously, Germany should not expect Russians to mourn its soldiers. But there are Christian commandments and simply human laws: the dead have the right to be committed to the ground."
As a result, the remains of German soldiers will be moved from burials in four neighboring regions: Voronezh, Bryansk, Tula, and Orel, to a new big cemetery near Kursk. This project is being implemented under the agreement between the Russian and German governments and fully financed by the German side.
Funeral teams could not cope with the horrendous amount of victims who perished in this horrible war. Special groups still find bones on the sites of former battles. Young people from voluntary teams, such as the Young Pathfinders, Memorial, Memory Relay Race, to name but a few, have been searching for remains since the end of the war but it looks like their tragic mission will be continued by the generations to come.
Equipped with mine-detectors and infantry shovels, these young people are acting much the same as funeral squads. They are putting the remains into fraternal graves. The names of the buried soldiers are mostly unknown. If they can identify the remains, the Germans are buried separately. However, in most cases the time has only left the bones. It is more and more difficult to find bullets, shoulder-straps, buttons, watches, mouth-organs or medals, cartridge-case of Soviet soldiers or German tags, all those things that can help identify the dead.
War historian Pyotr Dunayev maintains that about 10 percent of former enemies have to be buried in the same grave with the Russian soldiers, under one stone plaque. Of course, it would have been better if instead of lying there all together they would have been drinking at one table but here we are...