The Service at the Soldiers' Cemetery

After we left the old camp site, we were taken down to St Johann where we left the coaches and climbed the hill up to the Soldatenfriedhof (Soldiers' Cemetery). It was in this place that many of the Russian POWs who died in the 1941 typhus epidemic, and those who were killed in the 1945 bombing raid, were buried. When I first came here in 2002, it was a rather sad, neglected site but, since then, efforts have been made to improve the area. I am always aware, when I visit this cemetery, that I am walking over the graves of many Russian soldiers who never made it home.

We gathered quietly near to the Memorial to listen to the small band (a quartet from the City of Wolfsberg Brass Band, leader Paul Wolf) playing a hymn and then Dean Engelbert Hofer, the Priest from the Parish of Wolfsberg blessed the occasion. He then apologised as he had to rush off to officiate at a wedding! The Mayor then spoke to us all. The tone of his speech was one of regret and apology but I don't think that any of us there would blame the Austrian people for the events of World War 2. We should remember the past but learn from it.

 The next to speak was Major General Gerd Ebner, a representative of the Schwarzes Kreuz (Black Cross) association. This is the Austrian equivalent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and is responsible for the upkeep of cemeteries such as this.

All of these speeches were translated from the German by Claudia Kronlechner, who did stirling work over the weekend in doing translations for us all.

Finally I spoke. I didn't realise just how difficult this would be. On this hot sunny day, looking out over this hills, talking about those men who had been brought here against their will and never returned home. Also those men, like my father, whose lives had been cut short by their experiences during the war.

The three of us who had spoken paid our respects at the wreath by the Memorial and then others made their own private offerings. It was rather a sombre reflective party that left that place.



Walking up the hill to the Soldiers' Cemetery It was a long climb for some of us Gathering at the Cemetery The Soldiers' Cemetery Here lie the graves of 43 Russian and 4 Polish soldiers The Polish graves The Memorial View from the far end of the cemetery as we entered Wolfsberg in the distance We began to gather... ...forming together... ...around the Memorial Perhap Eric remembered old comrades The band played a hymn The priest blessed the occasion.. ...and then had to rush off to hold a wedding! The Mayor spoke to us all We listened in silence The representative from the Black Cross association spoke to us I made a very difficult speech Standing before the Memorial and the wreath Dedicated to the WW1 refugees and the WW2 POWs Leaving the Memorial Others made their offerings Lest We Forget Leaving the cemetery in reflective mood
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Saturday lunch at the Gasthaus zum Wirt in Pollheim

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